And So the Story Goes…
Winter break, visions of sugar plums dancing in your head, family time, and maybe a family vacation; and having your student home. But your vision and your student’s vision of winter break may just be polar opposites. Add to this vision is that students who leave for Thanksgiving will have the choice to finish up the semester online with the new semester not starting until mid to late January (some schools are even starting later). Many of us will have them home for 6 weeks or more.
Some will take COVID tests before coming home for Thanksgiving if they have not already tested positive. Some will still need to social distance from their family. And for those you go back after Thanksgiving, perhaps they will need another test before returning home for winter break.
With many students finishing up the semester at home, they will need a quiet space to study, have group chats with classmates or friends, take exams. Most of us are trying our best to give them the comforts they need but if you are like me, it has meant their bedroom is also their study room, their library room, and their classroom. I for one have sometimes forgotten when my daughter is on a call and screamed something across the house so I get having to make adjustments. That means making sure they have a quiet place to study and take exams without interruptions. (Of course, we’ve got some suggestions for Creating A Work and Study Home Space).
Hanging out with you every day may not be what your student was planning on doing. And while we are all excited to have our kids home, there needs to be a mutual meeting of the minds, so to speak. Yes, some have had very stressful semesters and may need this downtime. If that is the case, definitely give them a few days to get used to being home. Expect that they have changed; just as you too have changed as you both adjusted to a new family dynamic. You may notice a new sense of independence and self-sufficiency. And that is something to be excited about. Of course, how they handle this newfound independence may differ from your ideas but they are moving toward being able to handle a lot more on their own.
Perhaps they can go back to jobs they had prior to leaving for college if those are still available. Or maybe they can find a part-time job during the holiday season. Many cities belong to Nexdoor, a private social network where local residents post requests. Some may be looking for tutors, a babysitter, pet sitter, or even help with small tasks. They can offer their skills in Fiverr. Let’s face it, there are many small businesses that need to create a digital presence; who better to turn to than college students who know how to create websites, manage social media posts, and even code.
They need something to do other than lying in bed, watching Hulu, or Netflix every day. How you balance the “my house; therefore my rules” while they are home will require open dialogue and a lot of patience. Just like when they lived at home, I still have curfews and they must help with chores around the house. Family dinners and keeping the common areas clutter-free are two of my biggest issues. I know we want them to love being home again, however, there have to be some rules that still are respected.
Curfews become a tad more lenient as each college year passes, but basically, I can’t sleep well when I know they are into the very late hours. And there is the whole question of how comfortable you are with them going out and meeting up with friends. Are they meeting up in someone’s backyard or hitting up some of the more popular restaurants? My ask is that they are respectful of the fact that we (as opposed to them) are older and don’t really want to get COVID 19. Plus there is the whole issue of their grandmother and keeping her safe. As parents, we have to remember that our kids have been on their own for several months. They now answer only to themselves. They are learning valuable lessons. They probably enjoy being able to sleep all day or stay up into the early mornings talking with friends or going out at 11 pm after they finish studying and eating whenever and whatever they like.
So as a mom that has been there, done that, I have learned to pick my battles. They can keep their own bedrooms however they want, but the family areas are “clutter-free zones.” Don’t expect them to unpack right away. For Thanksgiving, the pre-pandemic excuse was they were only home for a short amount of time but a month of living out of a suitcase may make no sense to you or I. Trust me when I say that after the first week of them not being able to find anything, they will unpack. I’ve watched both my daughters do this. My niece, on the other hand, is a bit more organized and unpacked for the first hour she was home.
Everyone has their own method so maybe just close their door. My kids, like most, are thirsting for home-cooked meals and, since I love to cook, I actually enjoyed being able to prepare their favorite meals; I even had them go to the grocery store for me while I was working to pick up the ingredients I needed. Expect a lot more laundry. I must admit the first time each of my kids came home from school for Thanksgiving; I was so excited to have them home I actually did their laundry. Yes, that lasted one visit! I now keep them company while they do their own laundry, sometimes helping them fold it. Fine; I will do anything to spend a little extra time with them. Let them know ahead of time of any holiday commitments that are already scheduled whether this is Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. In between, let them have time to spend with their friends but make sure they are doing it safely. Allow them to adjust like you are and appreciate the time you do get to spend together. It is a whole new way of life for our students and for us too.
Our interns share their perspectives in We’re Coming Home for Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s. Perhaps that will be a good starting point for discussion about the next month and a half (unless your student is going back after Thanksgiving- bookmark it for the winter break.
Finally, because many are shopping online this year (or ordering online and picking up at the store), we share our holiday gift guides to make shopping easier! Our interns curated the gift suggestions… we’re just the messengers.
From all of us at HaveUHeard, we wish you a very happy & healthy holiday season!
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