It's that time of year! Not only are the stockings hung with care, but college students are headed home!
Finals are almost over and college students across the nation are packing up their cars after packing in a few last hang outs at school. They're coming home!
Long breaks are definitely anticipated and can be such a sweet time for your family. It's a time of rest for students and reconnecting with family and friends.
It can also be a hard time for families. That's a lot of time to be together after new routines were made this semester.
We know that long breaks can come with all sorts of dynamics. Good and hard. Restful and stressful. Fun and boring. College breaks are full of the “both and” types of moments.
But these breaks can be a time of reconnection and growth and lots of encouragement if you let them!
So, we asked some fresh college grads and seniors their advice for how to make the best of your time at home. Here's what they said (unedited):
"I think it’s a good idea to be upfront with your parents for the first time you come home and simply ask them what their expectations of you are. Do they still want you home at a certain time or expect to spend a lot of time with you over the break? If your parents have the same expectations of you that they had for 18 years or so, they may be disappointed when you come home super late or spend the whole break out with friends. Having this conversation right off the bat will set expectations straight and while it does open the door to having those same rules in place, you know you’re never too old to honor you parents, including following rules you may think are futile now. They are still paying for you and helping you out in a lot of ways, so just respect that.
For Parents: I’m not a parent but I would suggest thinking back on your own experiences of coming home for breaks. Your student is much more likely to enjoy coming home when some of their old rules are lifted! They’ll feel like they are getting the same adult-like respect they get when they are away. Also, your student will probably come back with stories of new experiences/having new ideas and they will feel discouraged from sharing if a parent’s immediate reaction is disapproving or even patronizing. Let them talk about the new ideas they have with you instead of being quick to shut them down and potentially making them feel disrespected. They’ve had a semester of learning how to think for themselves and they don’t want to feel like they are doing it wrong!" -- Jacey, Oklahoma University class of 2022
"I’ve always had such a great relationship with my parents & there was a lot of trust there, even in high school there weren’t a lot of strict rules. The one thing that helped me coming home I think was communication with them. They would never really ask a lot of questions to let me keep that freedom, I just made sure to let them know who I was headed to hang out with and then if I would be home that night or not. But again my parents were always so good at letting me grow up & making my own decisions!" -- Deborah, Oklahoma University class of 2021
"Well my mom isn’t really someone to argue with so my advice for anyone with similar parents is that yes it can be frustrating but anytime I felt pushed or controlled, I just tried to remember all of the things she was doing to help me (helping me with groceries during school, letting me stay there, stuff like that) and that living back at home for a little bit is a give and take and she was helping me out by letting me stay there.
And a tip from me would be to make time to get out of the house. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to be there all the time especially if you feel like the space for you and your stuff is getting smaller, so sometimes when I would be frustrated or overwhelmed, I would just find a reason to go run an errand or hang out with my friends so I could have some space and time away from my house." -- Brooke, Stephen F. Austin University Class of 2021
Hangout with your family- do a game night, make it fun!
Allow space to connect again with your high school homies and catch up
Encourage parents and students to go to a coffee shop- probs during Christmas break and reflect on your past semester, set goals or just think about what you want to accomplish spiritually, emotionally, relationally in the next semester. -- Lauren, Texas A&M University class of 2020
"Parents: Lead your students in how you changed: in college yourself or this semester with them away. Address the changes that have gone on in your life. Communicate with your parents about it. Start the conversation: “I’ve changed since high school and here’s how I’ve changed and why. Here are some ways I’ve grown this semester.”
And then ask about your parents and how they’ve grown this semester. I think having this conversation up front is super helpful. Giving you and your parents space to talk about change and growth. Then there’s no lingering assumptions about you being the same person or expectations for you to be different than your high school self.
Talk about more than just what you do but who you are growing to be. Talk to your parents about what you’re learning and who you’re becoming, not just the day-to-day things you do or study.
Initiate conversations with your friends from back home about how you’ve grown.
Maybe take some time to reflect on 10 ways you’ve changed this semester and then share with your family and friends; ask others the same question.
Sometimes you have to initiate the conversation, but your break will be much more fruitful if you have these conversations than if not!
Also, initiate something fun. Do things together and have fun as a family!"
- Brady, Oklahoma University class of 2021
"I wish someone had talked to me about this and like setting realistic expectations. What do my parents expect of me being back home and vice versa?
I think one thing I didn’t expect was the “time zone” change because in college I stayed up so much later and got up later and that’s just not how my parents run. I think that got perceived as laziness which would create some conflict.
Something that I had a really hard time with every single break was feeling like it was my time to relax/shut down especially coming off of a tough finals round buuuut then I think to my parents it would feel like I would come home and free load and act like I was at a hotel.
First Christmas is hard in some ways and easy in other I feel like— you’re not too far out of high school so probably people haven’t moved and probably you get to connect with your high school friends
But then also that can be tough because you leave and you grow and you come back and it’s like I don't feel the same about these jokes/patterns/dynamics or this isn’t how my college friends and I do this.
But as far as starting point, I would definitely say recognizing that different people in the situation might have different expectations (schedule, time with friends vs family, freedom, curfew, etc etc)
It think the other weird thing was feeling like I grew a lot at college and then coming back to my family and watching old “immature” buttons get pushed and just kind of having this mini identity crisis like did I even grow? Like it felt like I was college Emily and then I came home and I was high school Emily and I didn’t super know how to anchor that." -- Emily, Texas A&M University class of 2021
College breaks can be hard. Don't do it alone. Reach out to someone if you're struggling, lonely, want to talk through family dynamics, or just want a friend.
We have a great community of college ministries, so if you find yourself home for the break and needing community, let us help! reach out on instagram at @encourageyourcollegestudent