Surviving the Long College Winter Break

This one lasts a few weeks, not just a few days. 

by Anne Vaccaro Brady

My mother often described this break as the one where she couldn’t wait for us to come home, but by the end of the third or fourth week, she was ready for us to return to whence we came. We did turn the household upside down just by our presence. 

In an earlier post, I wrote about the changes to expect when your college freshman comes home for a break. If you covered many of the issues I discussed during Thanksgiving, these next few weeks will go smoothly. But here are some other things to note.


Your freshman has changed, even since Thanksgiving We’ve noticed this with both of our kids. They give off a new sense of confidence or maturity, which we attribute to the fact that they’ve survived their first semester/quarter. Coming home after finals, that first session under their belt, college kids feel accomplished—and relaxed. A bit of attitude comes with the territory, too.

The holiday frenzy Some kids are happy to get caught up in all the family traditions, while others may suddenly scoff at them. You should discuss what yours is up for.

The underlying issue often involves having enough time with friends rather than an outright rejection of you or the festivities. Alleviate some stress by highlighting the activities and events where you require your teen’s presence and the ones he can choose to attend.

For families who celebrate Hanukkah, kids sometimes come home in the middle of or after the holiday. Talk with your student about how he’d like to handle the holiday this year if his schedule doesn’t coincide.

Once the holidays are over After the New Year everyone else in the household will head back to work and school—except for your college student and her friends. She’ll still be staying out late, sleeping until noon and coming and going on her own schedule (unless she has a job). Talk with your teen about how this will all work, especially if everyone will be sharing cars or your house has a few light sleepers.

When boredom sets in As most of his friends return to college or the ones who commute start their second semester, your freshman might complain that “there’s nothing to do here.” He’s had his fill of home cooked meals, sleeping in and a pile of clean laundry always at the ready. At college, there’s rarely time to get bored and always someone around to talk to or hang out with. Not much you can do but offer suggestions, but I can tell you now, the one about cleaning his room probably won’t go over well.

Some kids don’t want to go back For any number of reasons, college wasn’t what they expected and they’re thinking of transferring for next fall. Make a point of discussing with your teen what didn’t work out to determine how to find a better fit. (Read my post on how to know when it’s time to transfer.) Keep in mind that if next semester goes better, your teen may decide to stay put.

Grades come in online Years ago, we received our semester grades in the mail. There was no hiding the results from our parents. Today, like everything else related to college, grades are sent electronically, within days after final exams—to your student’s account.

Ask your teen to pull up her grades online and go over them together. Reviewing the results might lead to a constructive discussion. Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Share your thoughts and experiences on surviving winter break in the comments section box below. We can all use some of your insight.

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