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Holiday tips from fellow parents

Wondering what to expect when your student comes home for the holidays? Check out these tips from your fellow Calvin parents:

Let them sleep! They are coming home exhausted after a stressful semester. This includes the car ride home—you may be ready to hear all about their first semester, but your student may be too tired to talk. Likewise, give them space; they share a small room at school and may be looking for alone time.

Stock your pantry and fridge with their favorite foods or make their favorite meals. That will warm their hearts—and calm their stomachs.

What changes at home have occurred since they left? Whether you’ve redecorated their bedroom or decided to drop your cable TV package, mention it before they come home so the change doesn’t throw them off so abruptly when they return.

They will want to see their high school friends. Sometimes this will be great (you will like seeing their high school friends too, if they hung out at your house in high school) and sometimes it won't be what they had hoped and it will make them sad. Be there to listen, just like you were in high school. Leave them time with friends at the start of break and plan any extra family activities for later in their time home, when they might be starting to process how friendships are changing.

And if they are missing their friends from Calvin during this “long” break at home, be grateful—this is a sign of how well they have settled in and that they are where they are meant to be.

How about a shared prayer or devotional time together? Don’t force this, but if you sense their interest, it could be the time over break that you learn the most about their life.

Remember that they have been living on their own as adults with their own responsibilities and schedules. Ask, don’t tell, them about participation in events. Respect them as responsible adults but ask that they show you respect as well. The high school curfew no longer applies, but you can ask them to communicate with you as a responsible adult would if they’ll be out late, or to tell you if they’ll be home for meals.

Discuss expectations in advance: Will they need to share the family car with a younger sibling? How will you handle family meals? Be gently firm on your expectations, and then be prepared to show grace when it doesn't work out as you had hoped.

What are their expectations for work? Do they hope to pick up hours at a former employer or seasonal work, or are they expecting “down time” for two weeks? One option to suggest: Make their holiday “work” research for a summer job or internship.

Get comfortable with biting your tongue. After just one college semester students are more confident in their independence and their opinions than before and may be more likely to critique what’s happening on the home front. Just smile and nod.

Instead of offering your opinions on their grades or school activities, ask open-ended questions: What have you learned about yourself this semester? What will you do the same or differently next semester?

Keep the big picture in perspective. You are nearing the end of the time they will be coming home for breaks. Things like a cup of coffee together in the kitchen, leaving them a love note and $10 to grab a snack when they're out and about, a special treat with their name in it, or the gift of not putting guilt trips on them for not meeting your expectations will reap rewards down the road.