Going away to college starts a new path in life for both parents and students. Students have their first taste of complete freedom and parents experience the feeling of freedom that comes from having an empty nest. After a shaky start, especially on the part of parents, who often feel something is missing when the house is finally empty of offspring, everyone begins to settle into this new rhythm. That is, until Thanksgiving arrives and everyone once again gathers in the same house.
When college kids come home for the first holiday, it can set the tone for all the rest to come. When both sides, student and empty-nest parents, take time to view each other with fresh eyes, the holiday can be a wonderful event initiating friendship into a relationship that was once only parent and child.
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Student as adult
Parents have a tendency to think of even grown children as youngsters needing to be cared for. Parents of returning college students will need to look at them as a young adults who have managed to feed themselves, clean their clothes, and manage their time for a few months now. Your student has become used to greater independence and thinking more for himself. Try to give him the respect you would another adult and don’t be so quick to take over.
Students, if you want to be treated as an adult, you need to show you deserve such treatment. Don’t come home with a suitcase full of dirty laundry for Mom to wash, wait for someone else to start a meal you can start, or clean up a mess you see needs to be cleaned. Show your parents you are a responsible person.
[Read more great tips for families who have students returning for the holidays.]
Coming and Going
Parents, keep in mind that local friends have also been missed while your student was away. Don’t demand all their attention and expect to know each and every place your student goes. Let them know in advance any family plans that have been made and whether you want them to attend, but give them leeway to plan their own time.
Students, an empty nest can be difficult for parents who have had a child with them full-time for at least 18 years. Ask about any family events that have been planned and make an effort to attend. If you have other plans, you don’t need to share all the details, but it is a matter of courtesy to let others in the house know you won’t be available, and when you can be expected to return.
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Parents, it is difficult to think of your child as an adult, but if you take the time to respect that they are now capable of making their own decisions and taking care of most, if not all of their needs, you will find you have gained a friend who most often shares your values, many of your likes, and a shared history. Respect this new adult and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Students, your parents are the ones who made it possible for you to become the independent adult you now are. Give them the respect they deserve for sharing so much of their life with you and giving you such a good base from which to launch your adulthood. They can easily become friends and trusted advisers if you do this. What can be better than a friend who has seen every side of you and continues to love you?
Families are forever. The holidays can be the time to reunite and strengthen those bonds of family.