College Student’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays
I can vividly remember my first holiday break at college; I eagerly anticipated heading home to my private room where I could sleep for hours and have my parents spoil me rotten. Needless to say, that dream quickly turned into a nightmare. It’s not that my parents were horrible, or that I didn’t appreciate the time I spent with my family, it was that I had completely unrealistic expectations of what would happen during the holiday break. I had created some Hallmark® fantasy in my head that would have made a great movie, but my lack of preparation ended up making it feel more like an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos, except I wasn’t laughing. It was a complete disaster. If you’re headed home for Thanksgiving or the upcoming winter break, take my advice and follow these simple tips to ensure your family reunion doesn’t leave you disappointed or wishing you had stayed back on campus.
1. Expect Change
You have probably changed quite a bit since leaving home this summer, so it’s not surprising that your parents and siblings may have changed, too. They may have settled into a completely different routine, or (gasp!) even redecorated your room. Heck, it may not even be a bedroom anymore. My father turned my room into his personal golf locker, putting green and all! And speaking of changes, be sure to give your parents a heads up about any significant differences in your lifestyle, such as becoming a vegan or abandoning cosmetics (like deodorant!). Nothing pleases your mother more than slaving over a hot stove all day to prepare a turkey or roast you refuse to eat. It helps to fill your family in on these items a week or so in advance, so they can change the menu or purchase extra air deodorizers before your visit.
2. Discuss House Rules
After months of coming and going as you please, it can be a shock to the system when someone asks when you’ll be home, or worse, actually imposes a curfew on you. Although you are no longer in high school, and technically an adult, you’re still under your parents’ roof, so don’t be surprised when they request that you be home at a ‘decent’ hour. Determining what ‘decent’ actually is may get a little tricky, but talking about it before you head home can eliminate misunderstandings or hurt feelings; try to find a happy medium. Something else to consider is guests. Some parents may be fine with unexpected guests showing up, but others may not be so accommodating, especially if you want to have a ‘special’ friend spend the night. Be sure you clear any visitors (and the ground rules for when they can come over and how long they can stay) with your parents prior to anyone showing up. Food is also an area that should be reviewed. I assumed I could ravage the kitchen cabinets whenever I felt hungry, but my parents weren’t too keen with my 2 a.m. cravings. I also made the mistake of devouring items that were on the menu later in the week, which meant mom had to head out and purchase more supplies. If you want to avoid upsetting your parents, ask before you eat anything and avoid crunchy foods after midnight.
3. Be Flexible
When I headed home for the first holiday break, I couldn’t wait to catch up with old friends. I made plans nearly every day to spend time with them shopping, going to the movies, or hanging out at the clubs. My parents, unbeknownst to me, had made plans, too. I never bothered to ask if they had anything special planned, and it caused a bit of friction between us when their plans collided with mine. In hindsight, I can see that I was being selfish and should have considered that they actually missed me while I was gone. If you follow any of my tips, this one should be at the top of the list. Make time for your family and be flexible enough to change your plans; you really don’t have that much time left to spend with them before you’ll be off creating your own life.
Whether you are heading home for the short Thanksgiving holiday or the longer winter break, take this time to reconnect with your parents and siblings. Find out what they have been up to since you’ve been gone (insert Kelly Clarkson song here!) and share your life with them, too. Even simple things, like learning how to use your iron to make grilled cheese, will make your family feel included in your life. I know it can sometimes feel like your parents are trying to drag you backwards, or can’t see the adult you’re becoming, but keep in mind that every year you get older, they do too. It’s not so much about them letting you go, but them saying goodbye to their youth. Be patient with them and enjoy the smothering while you can. I promise you, one day you’ll actually miss it.