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Merry Christmas?! What Happens When a College Freshman Comes Home for Break

You got a taste of it at Thanksgiving: your student being home for family time at the holidays. Now, you’re fantasizing about hanging stockings, and listening to Christmas music, and wearing big sweaters, and roasting chestnuts, and building snowmen…

KISS. THAT. GOODBYE. (under the mistletoe, of course)

For students the emotional and educational journey between when you dropped them off in the hall, to the moment  after finals week when they collapse into coma-like sleep on their old beds, a lifetime has passed. If you can, try an put yourselves in that position for a second. Remember? Everything happened so fast, and every moment, every word, every grade, every new thing, was so important or traumatic or stressful. They identify as, “Jennifer, the college student, who majors in Psych and lives in K-New,” and you identify them as, “Jennifer, my little girl, we’re so proud of her.” This is great, but now you have to reconcile how she identifies herself (remember, she’s lived four whole months of her life on a new and different playing field in which you had a very different and limited role), and how you identify her.

For some examples of what I mean, we’ll continue with Jennifer. After having lived “on her own,” she may believe that your house rules and expectations no longer apply to “Jennifer the Psych major in K-New,” but you believe that they do  to, “My little girl, Jennifer, just so proud.”

I could go on–for more examples and really great articles, check out the print newsletter on its way to you next week–
but the point is, you have to face the fact that the student walking in your door today is not the same person you dropped off four months ago. With an open mind, you will most likely discover that your student has improved and matured independently; you may find that s/he has dealt with struggles s/he has never before faced. Either way, your student is becoming an adult and dealing with adult issues relative to both success and failure, and that’s as it should be.

To help you both deal with this visit–I can tell you, my first Christmas break home, my mother and I went at it like your proverbial cats and dogs. Yikes!–you should talk about it. What are your student’s new expectations about how s/he would like to be treated? Has s/he demonstrated the value in this change? What are your expectations about the way your student will treat you and your spouse (perhaps not as rule-making Mom and Dad, but as other adults, of whom they should be open ans respectful).

Lastly, help them remember that first semester of freshman year is not a tatoo on their existence. It’s not there forever. They are navigating their own lives, and the choice to be happy, successful, empowered, or to make change, always belongs to them.

Happy Holidays!
Jessica Hume, c/o 2005
Director of Writing and Parent Communications

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About Cassie

I'm the Director of the Writing Center and Director of Parent Communications at Bellarmine University.

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