Your student has been away at school for several weeks or months and it’s finally time for them to return home for a holiday break. You’re excited to see them and can’t wait to catch up on their life at college. You’ve planned favorite meals and anticipate finally spending some quality time with your student. 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 they first get home. They may have just finished exams or completed major projects. Your student has been busy, stressed, and may not have gotten much sleep. They may want to do nothing for the first few days but sleep — eat — and sleep some more. Their inner clock has also shifted and midnight may now be their preferred time to make a meal, do laundry, or head out with friends.
Your student also wants to catch up with home-town friends while they are on break. It’s time to share college stories and explore old favorite places. Once your student wakes up, they may be out of the door with their 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 their new position as no-longer-kid-but-not-yet-adult. They’ve been independent at school and want to maintain that independence, but they may also long for that nostalgic feeling of being a kid at home again. Your student may not be exactly sure who they are or how they fit into the family right now. You may not be any more sure about it than they are.
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.