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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, and nearly a month away from Christmas, parents of college students are anticipating their return home for the holidays. Many of those students are most likely looking forward to catching up on sleep and taking a break from homework.
As you prepare for your student to return home for the Thanksgiving break, you’ve probably already mapped out everything you want to do during their visit. However, you have to realize the past few months may have been stressful and exhausting for them.
Here are seven things to keep in mind when your college student returns for the holidays.
Serve home-cooked meals – One of the things your student probably missed the most was a home-cooked meal. Having eaten in a college cafeteria the past few months, they are most likely ready for any of their favorite dishes you cook. Before they get there, ask them what food they missed the most. Make sure you have their favorite foods in the fridge and a home-cooked meal ready when they come home. Try to avoid eating out too much, unless they have a favorite restaurant nearby.
Let them sleep in – More than likely, your student has had a lot of late nights with homework or hanging out with friends, especially right before the Thanksgiving break. Try to not plan too many activities so they have a chance to get as much sleep as they need. Encourage them to sleep in or take naps throughout the day. It’s likely they’ve missed sleeping in their bed at home. Over the years, research has shown that more than 60% of college students don’t get quality sleep. Breaks are the perfect time for them to recoup before they head back for the last stretch of the semester.
Although you will want to spend as much time with them as you can, the quality of your time together is more important.
Give them space – The first thing you probably want to do is ask them a million questions about college and how they have been adjusting. Instead, let them take the lead on what school has been like. They may be exhausted, and it might take a few days before they open up. Remember, they’ve gone through some big changes. The past few months have been filled with them doing homework, so encourage them to enjoy some downtime and do activities they enjoy. Just realize that if they want to hang out in their room, it’s nothing to do with you. They may just need space at the moment, especially if they share a room at college.
Take care of them – For the past few months, they have been adapting to living on their own, such as cleaning their room and doing their own laundry. Although they should keep up with their room at home, offer to do their laundry. Before they head home, make sure their room is clean and consider putting together a welcome home basket with some of their favorite snacks. College students often miss the little things their parents did to take care of them.
Spend time as a family – Being away from home, your child missed spending time with family. You don’t have to plan for anything extravagant. Have meals at home together, play games, enjoy fun outdoor activities or watch movies. Prioritize your time doing what you love as a family. Encourage your student to go to any of their siblings’ activities to show their support. Try to avoid scheduling too many things away from home so you can just be together as a family.
Encourage them to hang out with friends – They’ve probably missed their friends from home, so give them the chance to get together with them. Make sure they don’t feel pressured to be at home all the time. A part of the homesickness they probably dealt with in college was being away from their close friends. This is the perfect time for them to connect with them again. Don’t be afraid to invite their friends to dinner so you can all be together.
Allow them to be independent – College students are eager to be independent adults. While your student is living in your house for the next week or so, make sure they know they have the freedom to set their own schedule. Tell them the family activities that are planned for the week, such as what time Thanksgiving dinner will be, and let them know you respect their independence. Don’t set a curfew, but ask them to let you know what their plans are when they leave the house so you don’t stay up worrying about them.
The time you spend with your child during Thanksgiving break will go by quickly. Although you will want to spend as much time with them as you can, the quality of your time together is more important.
And remember, a few weeks after Thanksgiving, they will be back for Christmas for a longer period of time. Take advantage of your time together, and make sure they have a positive experience coming home so it makes it easier for them the next time.