It will soon be the holiday season – the time when pumpkin pie deliveries, festive carolers and your college-aged kids will be at your doorstep.
While it can be wonderful for the whole family to be together again, even the most positive parents can experience some stress as their young adults, who were most recently living without a set of rules at college, now try to re-adjust to home life.
However, having college kids back home for the holidays doesn't have to mean lots of anxiety and frustration. Being conscious of the change in living environment and making a few small adjustments can save headaches down the road – and help spread good cheer for all! Here are three tips for parents who are welcoming their college-aged kids back home for the holidays:
1. Adopt the right mindset
Before your child arrives home, think about the value of the unique time ahead. Your children may go to school far away, but they have yet to totally pick up stakes, start their careers or move somewhere new permanently. Vanderbilt University recommends that parents reflect on the rarity and importance of the time spent with their children when they come home for holiday breaks.
"If both parties can think of this time as making a memory, that will go a long way in terms of getting them through the many semesters and separations that lay ahead," said John Greene, professor of pediatrics and associate dean for student health and wellness.
Establishing a positive and appreciative frame of mind ahead of time can help minimize conflict once the kids arrive.
2. Adjust the balance between rules and freedom
One major source of conflict comes from college-aged kids returning home after gaining a greater sense of independence and freedom, and then being expected to follow their parents' rules–just like they did before they left for school. College students have adjusted to having their own schedules and being in control of their time, and may become frustrated upon returning home and finding that they need to respect a curfew or complete chores – with parents feeling equal frustration on the other end! Student Advisor recommends that parents should be flexible with rules to minimize conflict and respect their college-aged children's developing independence. Children should be expected to follow some rules, of course, but too many can quickly turn the situation negative and contribute to feelings of resentment, leading college kids to be less enticed to spend time at home in the future.
3. Create a cozy abode
Though college-aged children return home from an environment of independence and freedom, they also were probably living in cramped dorms and sustaining themselves with cafeteria food. Many college kids value and embrace returning home during holiday breaks for the sense of comfort and familiarity they experience. Make any needed adjustments around the house, if you need to, to accommodate the incoming kids. If a child's room was turned into an office or other-use space, set up a comfortable air mattress or trundle bed with fresh sheets. Space heaters and air purifiers keep their rooms comfortable and cozy. And don't be surprised if your kids spend a lot of time catching up on rest while they're home. Though college has its freedoms, it has its own demands like piles of homework, challenging exams and time-consuming extracurriculars. Keep this in mind before reprimanding your children for sleeping late the first few mornings at home!
Having the whole family together again for the holidays is a treasured time. Reduce stress and conflict by following the tips above and savor the holiday season.
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