Navigating Your First Winter Break as a College Student

As you excitedly complete your semester exams and prepare for go home for the holidays, what you envision may be much different that what your family anticipates. While you may not be actively planning, you have an idea of how it’s going to play out. You’re gonna sleep in, catch up with the friends you haven’t seen in a while, hang out, and eat plenty. That may not be how your family – parents, siblings, everyone – think it’s going to happen.


Although you probably went home for fall break (if your university has one) and Thanksgiving, but winter break is different. It’s a much longer period of time and you are often expected to spend time with family and balancing that with friends and just doing you. So how to do you create that balance in a way that makes sense for you as an adult and your family?


Well, everyone who’s lived away from home has experienced this. You’ve been on your own for months, making decisions about when and where you will go out, how long you’ll go out, and what you will do while you’re out. Although your parents know this in theory, it may still shock them when you come home as that adult. Remember, until you left home in August, they knew many of the details of your every move and you probably had a curfew. Coming and going as you please is a concept that they’ve not seen and it will take adjustment – for everyone.


In all fairness, when you are back in the house for the holiday break, think about what your parents, siblings, and grands are expecting and how that fits into your plans. Think about it this way . . . . if movie night was a thing in your house before your left for college, your family may be looking forward to reinstating it over the break. Or maybe, just maybe, since you left for college it’s no longer a thing and you are looking forward to it. In either of those situations, someone is going to be disappointed.


The best way to ensure everyone makes the adjustment is to talk about it. If you can, talk to your folks about it before or as soon as you get home. You don’t have to plan every single day of your time at home, but chat with your family a little. Ask about ideas they have and share yours. Make some definite family plans and definite friend plans, then wiggle room for spontaneity. Also be conscious of their desire to know your whereabouts, even if they don't ask. Indulge their needs a little by updating them and making it in before the sun comes up. Remember when I said going to college is a family affair. It truly is and if everyone can manage their expectations, it can go smoothly. You’re an adult and your family will honor that, but remember to honor their feelings, too. They miss you. Eat it up.


Happy Holidays!

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