Finals are over, school is out, and your college-aged student is heading back home for the holidays! But before you get too excited about seeing your child for more than a couple days, it’s important to remember that they are not the same person you dropped off at the dorms three months ago. They have experienced many new things and have matured, and if you expect them to follow by the rules you had set in place before they left, you may find them resisting and closing off from you. As you count down the days until they return, prepare yourself beforehand to reassess the relationship.
Think about the expectations you have for your child. Do you want them to hang out with the family as they tell you about their classes, professors and new friends? Do you hope they’ll spend as much time with you as possible? Chances are, your child has different expectations for their visit home. One study said that returning students were most looking forward to hanging out with high school friends, sleeping in, and coming and going as they please. Naturally, this can cause problems between a parent and child, making their visit less than pleasant. So, what can you do to keep the peace, have fun and make the most of their visit?
Compromise, compromise, compromise! Before your child comes home for the holidays, take a moment to think about yourself and your tolerance level. If you can, try lowering the bar a little bit, allowing your child to make more independent decisions – particularly if they have shown themselves to be responsible in the past. Whether you’re ready for it or not, your child is technically a young adult, and letting them make their own choices, and face their own consequences, is one way you’re helping prepare them for adulthood.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have structure, especially if you have younger kids looking up to their older sibling and how you respond to them. When your child comes home, make sure they know your absolutes. Depending on your family’s dynamics and code of values, this could range from no alcohol in the house or sleepovers to expecting them to engage in holiday activities and traditions. It begins by treating your child with respect and getting respect from them in return. By compromising to ensure they meet their expectations, and you reach yours, the holidays will be fun for everyone. W