The holidays are approaching, and most college students are ready for some rest and relaxation.  Many plan to return to their parents’ homes for the month long holiday until the spring semester begins.  While these reunions can be joyful, they can also create a difficult adjustment for both students and their parents.

Common Difficulties:

Students have gotten used to having their freedom and functioning as adults.  Nobody asks them where they are going or asks them to be home at a certain time.  Parents may expect their children to follow a curfew or check in with them.

College is a time for students to develop independence and develop views separate from their parents.  During the first year, student’s views on  religion, politics, and other important life issues may have changed.  Students may expect to be able to express their new views at home as freely as they could during class.  When parents or siblings do not agree with these new views, arguments may result.

Students and parents may have different views on how the student should spend the holiday.  Students may go home expecting to relax the entire holiday season, while parents may be expecting their student to work or help out around the house.

Roles and rules have changed.  Younger siblings may have taken on new responsibilities and taken over space in the home that once belonged to the college student.  Each family member may have different expectations of how the returning college student will be integrated back into the family.  When these expectations are not met, tension can result.

Fall semester grades have come in, and students may not have performed as expected.  This can cause tension and arguing about what the student needs to do to improve.

How to Cope:

Anticipating these challenges and talking about expectations ahead of time may help prevent tension from developing.  Students and parents may wish to discuss curfews, schedules, use of the car, and other expectations.

Agree to disagree.  When it is clear that discussions are becoming heated, both parties can agree to drop the topic and move on.  Parents: Recognize that it is a good thing that your college student is learning to think for himself or herself.  Students: Recognize that it may be difficult for your parents to accept this new independent side of you, but be patient with them.

Students: Don’t forget about your siblings.  Try to understand how your absence and return may have affected them.  Talk to them ahead of time to see if there are any issues that need to be resolved prior to your return home.

If grades are a concern, set aside a time to discuss this.  Let the rest of the holiday be joyful and pleasant.  Parents: One discussion about grades will be more productive than many reminders about the student’s progress.