Mom’s Holiday Survival Guide
As a mother of four, I’ve pretty much seen it all. But nothing prepared me for spending the holidays with my college-age children; let me just say this, the ‘terrible twos’ were a breeze compared to our first holiday together. My older boys both left home in the same year. One had attended community college and finally moved out, while the other was a freshman returning home for the first time. So, like any mother who loves her children, I eagerly awaited their return and the time I would get to spend with them. Unfortunately, their vision of the holiday break was slightly different than mine. By the end of the week, I was more than ready to help them pack and send them back to college! Since then, I have learned some valuable tips for keeping the peace and making the holidays more enjoyable for everyone. If you have a college student coming home this holiday season, take my advice and follow these suggestions.
1. Ask About Their Plans
The biggest mistake I made the first time they come home was planning out every day. I had arranged for a big family dinner the first night back, but they had already made arrangements to meet up with some friends and go out. So, there I sat with my husband and two younger children staring at a table full of food. I could have saved myself a lot of time and money by simply asking them what their plans were while they were in town. Now, I simply ask what days they have open and make plans around their schedules. At least one day is set aside for family, and they make sure not to change plans once it has been scheduled. This way, I don’t waste time cooking large meals and they don’t feel guilty for missing them.
2. Push Back the Curfew
Remember that 10:00 p.m. curfew you had in place before college? Yeah, don’t expect them to adhere to that anymore; students are still at the library doing homework or finally getting some dinner around that time. On the other hand, it’s not alright for them to treat your house like a motel, coming and going as they please. Find a common ground that you both can accept. For my family, 1:00 a.m. has worked out well. Just be sure they have a key, so you don’t have to wait up for them.
3. Expect Changes
You might also find that your child is now a stranger to you. My oldest son left as a quiet homebody and returned as an opinionated know-it-all. Not that this was a bad thing, but I wasn’t expecting such a dramatic change. Try to avoid saying things like, ‘Who are you?’ or ‘What did you do with my child?’ as this will only make things worse. It might take a few semesters for them to mellow out a little, but give them some room to figure things out without taking it personally. My kids were fond of getting into debates on religion and politics. I may not have agreed with their opinions, but I was happy to see them engaging in a conversation that did not center around Call of Duty and other video games for once. Remember that college students are learning about new ideas and topics and some of that classroom discussion may find its way into your home over the holiday break.
4. Set a Budget
The first holiday visit with my boys left me feeling like an automated teller machine (ATM); every time they headed out the door they asked for a few dollars. By the time we finished picking up a ‘few things’ for the trip back, I was tapped out. I spent the next few months tightening my belt just to make up for the unexpected purchases I made during their visit. Now, I set a budget for each child during their stay and let them know the amount allotted up front. It’s their decision how to spend it (fun now or save it for later), but once it’s gone, Bank of Mom is closed.
Spending time with your college student over the holidays doesn't need to end in a battle or send you to the poor house. A little compromise on both sides and the ability to recognize that your child is no longer a ‘kid’ is the key to a peaceful and enjoyable visit. Keep the lines of communication open and set a budget to ensure nobody has unrealistic expectations. In the end, it’s the quality of time spent with your child and not the quantity that matters.