For students and families, the transition to breaks can present common challenges. Students have engaged in a semester-long exercise in exploring independence. This means, the person who left you in August, looks, thinks and acts differently than the one who returns in December. With winter break approaching, we offer suggestions to help ensure meaningful time together:
- Remember, it is not only a transition for your student but also for you. They will be adapting to your new routines in the same way you are adapting to theirs. Expect a period where the entire household is adjusting.
- Expect your student to test the boundaries of their newfound autonomy when home. While this is developmentally appropriate, it can be a source of tension. Opening a discussion about this, both before and during break, can go a long way in preventing misunderstandings later. Have open and honest conversations about expectations – time together vs. apart, household duties and responsibilities, curfews – while remembering they have gone several months self-managing these expectations. Don’t forget, their new autonomy gives you an opportunity for breaks from old parenting duties too!
- Be thoughtful with scheduling. While this is a break for students from academic, student organization and social responsibilities, it is also a holiday period where family traditions are important. Have conversations about which social and family responsibilities are negotiable and which are not. Understand this is also an opportunity for students to reconnect with old friends they have not seen in months.
- Check in with your student about what they need from you. Parents may feel pressure to problem-solve their student’s difficulties, where they may instead want a sounding board and support rather than advice.
- Show interest in their education, activities, new ideas and relationships.
- Don’t shy away from having direct conversations if you notice your student seems distressed or is struggling with issues such as substance use or isolation. If you have concerns, you are welcome to consult with Counseling and Psychological Services staff by calling 740-593-1616.
Acknowledging that change is the only constant helps manage expectations, making breaks enjoyable for everyone.
Adapted from the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Psychology Today, and US News & World Report