Surviving the Long College Winter Break

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

by Anne Vaccaro Brady

My mom often described this break as the one where she couldn’t wait for my sister or me to come home from college, but by the end of the third or fourth week she was ready for us to return to whence we came. We did have a way of turning 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 the first holiday break. If you covered many of the issues I discussed during Thanksgiving, these next few weeks will go smoothly. But here are some others to note.

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Your freshman has changed, even since Thanksgiving My husband and I noticed this with both of our kids. They gave off a new sense of confidence or maturity, which we attributed to the fact that they 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. Discuss what yours is up for.

The underlying issue usually 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 they can choose whether to attend.

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

Once the holidays are over After New Year’s Day, everyone in your household will head back to work and school—except for your college student. They’ll still be staying out late with their friends, sleeping until noon and coming and going on their own time (unless they have 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 their friends return to college or the ones who commute start their second semester, your freshman might complain, “There’s nothing to do here.” They’ve had their 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 their 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, which it often does, your teen may decide to stay put.

Grades come in online When we were in college, semester grades arrived in the mail via USPS. 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 their grades online and go over them together. Reviewing the results could lead to a constructive discussion. Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.

With some flexibility and a willingness to negotiate on both sides, winter break can turn into more of the fun time you hoped for.

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

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