What to Expect When Your Child Comes Home from Winter Break

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Parents often face a significant adjustment when their young adult college student returns home for the winter break. Your child is probably excited about coming home but also likely feels anxious and worried about what things will be like. You will be looking forward to spending time with your son/daughter and catching up on their academic progress. This first long trip home can be emotional if your expectations differ from those of your young adult student.

Students returning home for the holidays often have mixed feelings. Some enjoy returning to the familiar routine and security of home; others have become very independent while away at college and behave in ways that are reflective of their new values and beliefs. You may experience difficulty if you expect that the student who greets you at the end of the semester is the same one you dropped off months earlier.

Here are some tips to help smooth that transition for everyone:

  • Remember that holidays are stressful and plan to make the visit as stress-free as possible for your student and for yourself. Ask them to tell you about friendships, classes, and routines as well as any problems they may be experiencing. Keep in mind that your student may not feel happy, despite expectations that holidays are joyful. Offer to provide help or suggest counseling if needed.
  • Keep in mind that your student has been studying for final exams and projects over the past few weeks and will probably come home exhausted. Expect that your student will need to spend more time than usual sleeping and eating. It is reasonable to anticipate that your routine will be adjusted. Discuss house rules around eating and sleeping times and visitors but negotiate new rules too.
  • Recognize that your student is an emerging adult. S/he has gained some independence over the past few months but is still dependent in other ways. Your student may bring home laundry for you to wash and look forward to home-cooked meals, but also balk at curfews and other restrictions you impose. Ask your student about her/his preferences for how to spend the holiday while also maintaining normal holiday routines and traditions so that your student will feel secure. 
  • Consider that you will experience an adjustment too if the family dynamic has changed.  You may have re-modeled your student’s bedroom or become accustomed to fewer disruptions or responsibilities at home. Prepare your student for any changes prior to their arrival at home and steady yourself for any reactions to having them back in the house.
  • Be prepared if your student has a difficult transition back to campus. While some college students are eager to return to college after the break, others may have not fully adjusted to college life and may be homesick. Offer support to your student and give them words of encouragement that will help them re-adjust back to campus.

Your student’s first long visit home is an exciting but stressful time. Enjoy this time and recognize it as a major milestone in their development and growth. Embrace this time as a major turning point for you as a parent too!

For more information, visit the Georgia Tech Counseling website


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Rachael Pocklington
  • Created: 12/02/2013
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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