Magazine article Work & Family Life

When College Students Come Home for the Holidays

Magazine article Work & Family Life

When College Students Come Home for the Holidays

Article excerpt

Off the bus came Alex, full of life, with his endearing, impish grin, home from college for a month's winter break It was a happy reunion for his family until out of his backpack, Alex pulled a fioppyeared puppy, an adorable stray that he planned to "find a home for." But who was going to take care of a puppy in the meantime?

Returning children often revert to patterns that yank a parent's chain. Maybe it's a puppy or k might be a nose ring, a tattoo, a suitcase dumped in the hall or hearing those familiar words, "Bye, seeya later."

What to expect during a holiday visit

What with cell phones, e-mail, and Skype, many parents feel like their college students never left home. But they did - and there are some classic re-entry patterns that you should be prepared for.

CHECKING FOR SIGNS OF CHANGE. If you altered your child's room or sold the old pool table, brace yourself for a reaction. In their transition to greater independence, college freshmen typically like their home base to stay unchanged.

LIVING IN A BUBBLE. Other returning students are oblivious to their surroundings. They wouldn't notice your new hair-do if it were dyed purple, not to mention the effort you put into making their homecoming celebratory.

CHECKING INTO A HOTEL. Many kids arrive at home as if they were checking into a hotel, coming and going at their leisure and leaving the "maid" to clean up after them while they're hanging out with their friends. After doing their own laundry and being responsible for themselves in ways they hadn't anticipated, college students may feel relieved to "under-function" at home - they're tired of being an adult. Many parents miss fussing over their children, but others resent having kids act as if they're a houseguest.

FEELING SCATTERED. Some students arrive home reeling from exams, the social scene and their living arrangements. They need to just "veg out" and put together the pieces of their experience. They may be too preoccupied to hang up the clothes they're tripping over.

Setting limits is still important

As parents, we like to preserve the image of home as a cocoon, but if it starts to feel like too much take and not enough give, you'll need to negotiate some limits. Some parents (who sleep well and trust their kids) extend "free agent" status to returning college students. But most, as a matter of courtesy and assurance of safety, ask for a level of accountability (easier now with mobile phones): What are your plans? …

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