Your student has been away at school for several weeks or months and it’s finally time for him to return home for a holiday break. You’re excited to see him and can’t wait to catch up on his life at college. You’ve planned his favorite meals and anticipate finally spending some quality time with him. You’ve survived the empty nest, but you’re looking forward to filling it up again – at least for a little while.
What you may not realize, however, is how much you’ve adjusted to that empty nest. It seemed so quiet and empty in those first days after you dropped your student off at school. But now you’ve had time to get used to the quiet – and you may not even realize it. You’ve adjusted to fewer dirty dishes, less laundry, and turning out the lights when you go to bed because no one else is coming home later.
There are a number of things that you can anticipate about that first longer break at home, and a number of things that you can do to prepare, but among the things to expect, expect some disruption in your household. This may be the first time that you realize how much you’ve made the adjustment.
Of course, realizing that you’ve adjusted doesn’t mean that you don’t want your student to come home. You do. But remember that life will be different than it has been recently – and different than it was when your student was in high school.
Your student may be exhausted when he first gets home. He may have just finished exams or completed major projects. He’s been busy, stressed, and may not have gotten much sleep. He may want to do nothing for the first few days but sleep – eat – and sleep some more. His inner clock has also shifted and midnight may now be his preferred time to make a meal, do laundry, or head out with his friends.
Your student also wants to catch up with his home-town friends while he is on break. It’s time to share college stories and explore old favorite places. Once your student wakes up, he may be out of the door with his friends before you realize it. Certainly, there will be some family meals, but probably not as many as you anticipated.
Your student is also trying to balance his new position as no-longer-kid-but-not-yet-adult. He’s been independent at school and wants to maintain that independence, but he may also long for that nostalgic feeling of being a kid at home again. Your student may not be exactly sure who he is or how he fits into the family right now. You may not be any more sure about it than he is.
The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone. Preparing yourself for the added disruption of having your student home for a first visit from college can help everyone enjoy the time together even more. Just remember, the nest will quiet down again all too soon.