The first time (or maybe first extended time) home for college freshmen during the Thanksgiving break can be simultaneously exciting, and frustrating for both parents and kids. College students may be looking forward to hot, home-cooked meals–not served on a tray–sleeping in their own (quiet) bedrooms and a private bathroom with a door that locks, rather than the mega-5 stalls in a row, 7 people standing at the sinks and 3 people showering residence hall latrines–as well as laundry that is free, with no waiting and not in another building. Simultaneously, parents may be eagerly anticipating having the whole family back together again, after feeling the empty (or emptier) nest. Even pets can get re-acquainted with their masters, not quite understanding the college student’s absence. The familiar can be comforting for all, and needed rest from the last few months’ transition to life at college (and for families, life without the college student).
At the same time, frustrations can arise, as college students have become accustomed to setting their own rules and keeping their own hours, and may experience a temporary adjustment period when transitioning back to home life, communicating with their families about their comings and goings. Parents may be dismayed that their college student spends more time visiting friends who’re also home for the break, rather than mom and dad. Siblings may also feel the pinch of brother or sister home again, as their new rooms are taken back or sharing the bathroom again may become a point of contention. On top of all this, the stress of cooking a big meal and preparing for guests or travel to another city for holiday festivities can add complexities. Plus, homework and other projects may still need to be completed, as the college quarter/semester may be ending soon after the Thanksgiving break (and other siblings may also be trying to get assignments completed); And, then, there’s the stress of trekking through airports and crowded freeways on one of the busiest travel days of the year. (Whew! The actual break may come after everyone’s back at work and school…)
The upcoming holiday break can be one of those “mixed blessings”. Both parents and students may be challenged to adjust–letting go of previous thinking and reactions to each other. While parents may be pleased to see their offspring growing into independent, self-sufficient beings, the longing to visit with their children can create tension. The maturing student is working toward seeing themselves as a self-reliant individual (without the youthful rebellion), who’s also sensitive to their family’s wishes. Sometimes, old habits (and mindsets) die hard–for both parents and students, creating friction. Yet, at Thanksgiving, there’s no better truce-builder than Auntie’s scrumptious pumpkin pie and loads of whipped cream–to bring all sides together.