The fall semester is over and winter break is about to begin. You’ve been daydreaming and planning memory-making family time, great conversations, and fun activities for weeks. However, your college kid may have been having daydreams that are quite different from yours. The truth is the past 16 weeks or so of independence, late night studying (and other late night activities we don’t want to think about), navigating new friendships and new schedules have had an effect on them — leaving many of them completely exhausted.
If this is your child’s first winter break from college, there are a few things that you should expect — and some of them may throw your plans of spending quality time with your child out of the window.
To avoid unrealistic expectations that can turn into disappointments during your child’s visit home, be prepared for the following:
10 Things To Expect When Your
College Kids Come Home For Winter Break
1| They want to sleep – ALL DAY LONG, EVERY DAY
You may have cleared your schedule and made plans to spend quality time together, but they have been planning to sleep for the next week (or the entire winter break). After months away and sleep deprived nights of studying for semester finals, your kid(s) will be exhausted – both physically and mentally. Go easy on them for the first few days and let them catch up on some shut-eye. If they turn into a zombie, it’s absolutely normal.
2| They want to spend a lot of their (waking) time with their former high school BFFs
It seems just as they return home, dump their mountain of dirty laundry at your feet (or, wake up from their daily marathon naps), they are rushing out the door to hang with friends they haven’t seen since summer. We may have been counting down the days to their return, but so have they – only they’ve been counting down the days to seeing their former BBF’s. They have so much to catch up on and lots of notes to compare about their college lives. Don’t worry, after the first week or so the novelty of seeing the old friends dies down and you will have plenty of time to spend with your child.
3| They actually want to eat home cooked meals
After a long semester away, one of the things that your college kid is most looking forward to is eating their favorite home-cooked meals. Months spent eating mass-produced campus cafeteria food, fast food, pizza and other junk food, the last thing your kid is looking to eat is more of the same – including pizza. I made the rookie mistake and planned a family Friday pizza night only to be told, “Mom, I eat pizza every other night, can you please cook me something that’s not college food?”. It’s a good thing they crave their favorite home-cooked meals because it seems as if that’s the only way we can get to spend any actual time with them.
4| Many come home sick
Is it just me, or does everyone’s kid seem to come home with some sort of a cough, sniffle or body ache? The long stressful hours studying, the late nights up, lack of sleep, poor diet choices and exposure to new germs seem to make them sick just as they are heading home. Simply put, they are drained and it has taken its toll.
5| The definition of curfew has changed
Having been on their own for months, curfews have not been a part of their college life. In fact, your kid might think the word has been purged from the dictionary. Now that they’re home, the subject of an acceptable curfew may need to be discussed. Having an honest discussion with your child and coming up with compromised expectations about whether to adhere to a curfew or not, should be one of the first conversations you have. There will be far less worrying on your part and far less with them feeling like they’re a little kid again.
6| To drink or not to drink?
As with the subject of curfews, the subject of allowing them to drink alcohol at home may come up. Once again, this topic is something to be discussed early on and will be different for each family. I’m not naïve enough to think that my rules about drinking prior to age 21 are being followed by my kids when they are at college, but they know my feelings about it when they are home.
7| You may feel like your space is being invaded
If this is the first time that you’ve experienced being an empty-nester, you’ve most likely gotten into the groove of your new routine. As much as you’ve been waiting for your kid (or kids) to return home, it may take a few days to get used to the fact that you are sharing your space and time again. The extra food shopping, doing laundry every day, and living with people whose idea of clean and neat don’t exactly fit your definition of clean and neat, may cause you to want to retreat to your room and shut the door. It’s absolutely normal to feel a little bit invaded at one point and crave some alone time.
8| Your time together is spent at appointments
It feels like the time you do have with your child is spent cramming a year’s worth of appointments into their short visit. Doctor appointments, dentist appointments, haircuts, and even car maintenance appointments become more critical to take care of during this time since these things typically do not get taken care of while they are away.
9| They just need time to relax
The first semester away is more than studying and academics. It’s the time that many college kids have to be 100% responsible for every aspect of their lives. They’ve been doing their own laundry, shopping for their own supplies, cleaning their dorms (at least we hope so), rushing frats/sororities, holding down part-time jobs and navigating their new social scene. Just like real-life adults, the time off from school is their vacation from their normal daily routines. Be considerate of this and allow them to be a little lazy now and them. This is the time they have to recharge their batteries for next semester.
10| Winter break is way too short
Just as soon as you get used to living with your children again and enjoying their company, what seemed like it should have been a long break goes by in the blink of an eye. Add in the obligations that come along with the Holidays, and your time together seems to go by even more quickly. Do take time to cherish every second you manage to spend with your kid(s). Before you realize it, it will be time for them to pack up and head back to school – and time for you to stock up on a little extra tissue as you tearfully hug them goodbye.