It’s been a long and challenging three months. Even for seasoned college kids who’ve been around the college block a time or two, the first semester of the year is often packed with adjustments and new pressures. Still, despite the harsh demands of college, they’ve done things on their own terms.
Late nights hanging out with friends, no one breathing down their neck dictating what time to come home, eating whatever they want whenever they want, (honestly, we’d probably cringe if we knew what their diet consisted of), and letting laundry pile up in the corner of their dorm until they’re down to their last clean pair of socks, our college kids have been managing life without us.
Even our timid freshman, who tearfully waved goodbye at college drop-off wondering how they were ever going to survive without us, isn’t the same person.
You might say they’ve blossomed in the vast openness of freedom.
So, before you pack their schedule to the brim with visits with Aunt Helen and Uncle Jasper, shopping on Black Friday, cooking blissfully in the kitchen together on Thanksgiving morning and long, cozy conversations about life in college, you might want to think twice.
Chances are their idea of a fun, relaxing Thanksgiving break might collide with yours.
To avoid a head-on family collision this Thanksgiving break, heed the advice of a mom who’s been there before. Put your parental parking brake on and do your best to go with the flow.
Here are 6 things you can do to take the pressure off and reconnect with your college kids without driving them nuts.
Don’t Put the Hammer Down
If you want your college kids to actually enjoy spending time with you and the family this Thanksgiving break, give them some control over when and how often. Of course, you want them to spend Thanksgiving Day with the family enjoying quality time and a home-cooked meal that took days to prepare, but it’s best to loosen your grip the rest of the break.
Give them time to catch up with high school friends, spend quiet time in their room listening to music or have a marathon Netflix session. They’ve been confined to a strict schedule for months. They need this time to unwind and re-energize before they head back to college in a few short days.
Don’t Pound Them about Grades
The last three months that’s all they’ve thought about. One test grade after another; one essay after another; and one constant reminder after another that they have to maintain their GPA. The last thing our kids need when they head home for the break is us pounding them with questions about their grades, their study habits or what their plans are for the future.
Chat with them before the break. Chat with them after the break. But, make it a point to avoid discussing heavy college subjects that will add to their stress and prevent them from chilling out, at least for a few days.
Toss Some Fun into the Mix
Chances are your family has been enjoying the same tried and true Thanksgiving traditions for years, and that’s definitely something worth treasuring. But, your kids are growing up and there’s the possibility that those once endeared traditions have become… well, a little dated and boring – at least in your kids’ eyes. Maybe it’s time to spice things up a bit by doing something different.
Go ice skating as a family, take a hike in the mountains, visit a quaint village, plan a family game night or sit by a bonfire and roast marshmallows. Doing something completely out of the ordinary will be a welcome departure from their stressful life at college.
Give Them Some Latitude in the Kitchen
Did you know 80% of teenagers say they actually enjoy cooking and another 59% admit to watching cooking shows on TV and the Internet? And, it’s not just the girls. Most kids love to cook, or at the very least dream of making those super cool desserts, they see on cooking shows.
Why not pass off some of the Thanksgiving cooking to them? Whether it’s tom turkey himself, an appetizer, a side dish or a fancy dessert they want to try their hand at, let them choose the recipe, buy all the ingredients and do all the cooking or baking. (Moms, that means absolutely no griping about the mess). They’ll be learning an important life skill while the family enjoys stress-free time in the kitchen doing something fun and creative.
Plan an Unexpected Surprise
As a mom who’s a self-proclaimed “surprisologist,” (honestly, I’m slightly addicted to surprising my kids), the one thing I’ve realized about surprises is that kids, no matter what their age, absolutely love them. Before your child ventures home for Thanksgiving break, conjure a surprise to bring a smile to their face. A trip to their favorite restaurant, a new comforter on their bed, an overnight stay at a cool hotel complete with a hot tub or tickets to a concert they’ve been wanting to see – it doesn’t matter how expensive or inexpensive the surprise is. Even the simplest surprises have been scientifically proven to activate pleasure centers in our brains and give us a nice shot of dopamine. Plus, it’s a great reminder to our kids just how important they are to us.
Let Them Sleep
I know. You’ve waited three long months to spend time with your child and all they want to do is sleep until noon every day. It’s frustrating, to say the least. But, let them. College is exhausting. Their hectic routines, their inexperience at managing their time and the often unfriendly college schedule that puts them at risk of sleep deprivation have taken its toll these past few months.
They desperately need to crawl into their own comfy bed, catch up on their zzz’s, and refuel before they head back to college. Just grab as many precious moments and hours as you can in between their slumber and remember, you’re doing them a huge favor by backing off and giving them exactly what they need.