Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
Dear College Senior: You Don't Have to Have Everything Figured OutElizabeth Spencer
The days are getting shorter and colder and that means Thanksgiving — one of my favorite holidays — will be here in no time at all.
I love everything about Thanksgiving: family togetherness, the food, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and the fact that everyone in the U.S. celebrates (regardless of religion or political affiliation).
One thing to be especially thankful for is our college students returning home.* Although you may have seen your son or daughter for Family Weekend, this might be the first time they are back home since leaving for school in August.
It’s exciting — like balloons and a "Welcome Home!" banner exciting. However, unlike winter break when they'll be home for an extended period of time, their time off for Thanksgiving is relatively short and there’s a lot to cram in.
Here are a few things to consider before they arrive.
Despite a possibly hectic journey involving holiday traffic or jam-packed airports, your student will be just as thrilled to be home as you are to have them back in the nest. Give them a little space — they need time to settle in, hug their siblings, play with the dog, check out their room, etc.
Although you're anxious to spend time with them, remember that they will probably bring home a lot of work. Finals are only a few weeks away. Gently suggest that they limit social activities, both with you and their friends, until they're home again at the end of the semester. Thanksgiving will fly by and while no one wants to write a paper over vacation, the more they get done, the easier their last few weeks will be.
It doesn’t mean they can’t go to a movie with friends or watch football after turkey on Thanksgiving Day but they should be mindful of their time and perhaps make a schedule that includes school work.
Given that it’s been a while since your student was home, your first instinct may be to do everything for them, including meal prep, laundry, etc. Feel free to indulge them but be careful because the cushy life you provide will set the stage for their next visit home at winter break, which is significantly longer, as well as their summer break, which is really long.
It’s perfectly fine to say, “Since you are home for just a few days and have a ton of work I’m happy and willing to wait on you hand and foot; however, this is a temporary situation and I recommend you don’t get too used to it. Now would you like pumpkin or apple pie for dessert?” Feel free to improvise and use your own words!
Thanksgiving week may be the first time since summer that your student has had a chance to spend time with high school friends. Some reunions will be fantastic; other relationships, including ones with significant others, may be starting to change. Prepare yourself for any angst that occurs as they discover that, while some relationships are for a lifetime, others will not last.
Don’t be surprised if your child seems a little different — perhaps more independent and opinionated. Your tuition dollars are helping them discover themselves and the world. While hearing their arguments can sometimes be trying, it’s good that they are finding their voice and expressing their views.
When they aren’t sleeping, studying, running off to see friends or eating all the food you stocked in the fridge, try to catch up with them about how school is going. Although you have texted and talked, it’s easier to communicate in person, when they are not rushing to class or surrounded by other people. It’s a chance to hear about what is going right with school and perhaps discuss strategies on how they can improve what’s not going well.
When Thanksgiving is over, they will head back to campus laden with leftovers and clean clothes while you are left wanting more time with them. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that the end of the semester is fast approaching. And you may want to rest up because the next time they come home, well, that’s an entirely different story…
*If your student can't be home for the holiday for financial or logistical reasons, encourage them to take part in any activities available for students who remain on campus. My oldest son, who went to college at a distance, was fortunate to be invited to local friends’ homes for certain Jewish holidays when he was unable to get home. Although we missed having him with us, he enjoyed his different holiday experiences. I always tried to return the favor when his friends were in New York and needed a place to stay.
It’s time to celebrate with the perfect gift for your new grad!