Enjoying the Holidays at Home with Your College Student

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Georgia Tech Counseling Center

As much as the winter holiday break is anticipated as a time of much needed rest and rejuvenation, it can also be a time that brings stress and apprehension for students and their parents. For some, this holiday period is the first extended time that students and their families spend together after the student has left home for college, and can be a time that students and parents experience power struggles. There can be stress associated with differing expectations over how time will be spent, with whom, curfews, chores, punishment, overnight guests, changing views and the like. Students are returning home to childhood beds, home cooking, and parental rules after having a great deal of autonomy and a taste of adulthood. Students may be coping with many changes during their early years of college; family patterns may have changed while they were away. Single parents may have begun dating, once married parents may have divorced, parents may have become more involved in their careers or other activities, and friends may have changed or moved. In short, the dynamics of the child-to-parent relationship are shifting.

However, these dynamics can be negotiated respectfully and are not necessarily a source of difficulty. Families who have managed a peaceful transition during the college years provide some of the following tips for enjoying your college student’s visit home for the holidays:

Plan Ahead: Realize that your student has just finished final exams and is in need of some rest and rejuvenation. Chores, dental appointments, auto repair, or visits with relatives can be managed when you encourage your student to help plan the tasks and visits. This shows respect for your student’s time and helps your student develop a sense of ownership in the activities.

Compromise: Realize that your student may want time to visit friends and that a balance between family time and friend time can be achieved. It is not unreasonable to expect your student to participate in family activities and traditions. However, they should get some freedom to negotiate some time for rest, friends, and independent fun as well.

Discuss House Rules: Make sure all parties are clear on curfews, chores, punishments, sleepovers, and if there are any changes to previously existing house rules.

Discuss Expectations of Grades: It is advised for students and parents to discuss final grades in advance of the holiday break - especially if grades will fall short of expectations. It is also very helpful for parents and students to agree to times that are “off-limits” in regards to discussing difficult or stressful topics such as grades or changing a major. This will give your student “safe times” they can relax with you at home.

Remember that college is a time when students are developmentally expected to explore the values and views with which they were raised and to discern the principles they will hold as well as the ones they will change. Be prepared to discuss these ideas during the holiday visit. It is a normal process as your student moves from adolescence to adulthood.

For more information, visit the Georgia Tech Counseling Center website


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Rachael Pocklington
  • Created: 12/02/2010
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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