Your Student Needs This Time Over Winter Break

This article is an update of an earlier article.

Winter Break. Most college students look forward to it – and they get increasingly impatient for it as the semester draws to a close. Students face deadlines they may have ignored, final papers, final projects, final exams, and a generally stressful few weeks as they finish up their term.

Winter Break

Students don’t want this Break, they need this Break. They’ve worked hard all semester and they need a chance to regroup. This winter, no one is sure what to expect. Covid, the flu, and RSV are making everyone a little nervous. We’re inching back to normal and we hope Winter Break will be comfortable and safe for everyone. The next few weeks may prove challenging for everyone. But wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, most students need one thing as this semester draws to a close: time.

Not all time is the same

No matter how long your student’s break from college, they need to fill it with different kinds of time to help them recharge and to prepare to move forward.

Eight kinds of time your student needs


The end of the semester can be brutal for some students. Your student may come home and sleep for what seems like days. They may just want to binge watch their favorites, play video games, eat junk food, sleep some more and just hang out.

Winter Break is just that – a break. Remember that your student may need some time to recover from the pace and the stress of the last few days or weeks. Try to be patient and give them a little space for those first few days.

Social time

This one is so vitally important to students. More than anything, your student probably wants to get together with friends. Encourage your student to continue to think about ways to do this safely. If the weather allows, encourage outside gatherings and events.

It may be frustrating to watch your student head out with friends so often if you’ve expected your student to return home and spend lots of family time. There will be time for that, but they need to make these social connections as well.

Unplugged time

More and more of our lives now revolve around a screen – it’s often our lifeline to the rest of the world and also our virtual workplace. Screens provide our entertainment, they give us access to our friends, family and colleagues, they allow us to shop, attend our classes or get our work done. We’re spending a lot of our lives in front of screens.

Help your student find some ways to take a break from their screen. (You may want to think about this for yourself as well.) Spend time with family – doing things, not just watching things. Get outdoors – walk, hike, bike, ski, swim – whatever the weather allows where you are. Play games. Read books. Dance. Do anything that helps you and your student take a break from technology.

Family time

Spending time with family is more important than ever after your student has been away at school. College students often eagerly anticipate the special holiday traditions that assure all of us that even though the world sometimes seems to be spinning out of control, some things have not changed. Talk to your student about what matters – cook together, bake together, decorate the house together, honor old traditions and start new ones. Pull out the old board games or find some new ones. Take advantage of some time now to just be together as a family.

Reflective time

Break can provide a great opportunity for your student to gain some perspective on how things went over the past semester.  It’s time to examine those final grades and evaluate whether they should make some changes next semester.  It’s a good time to think about career goals and steps to move in the right direction. Winter Break can be an important breath-catching time – a time to look backward before moving onward.

Structured time

It’s great to have a break from routine and just kick back for a while. But, especially if your student has an extra long break, it’s important to have some structure, too. After your student has had some downtime to recoup, help them think about how they want to use their time over Break. Help them think about some goals or what they’d like to accomplish during these next few weeks. Keep it flexible; but help them plan a basic routine to provide some stability.

Productive time

One reason to create some structure for Break is to allow your student to feel productive. If your student can achieve even one or two small goals, they can come to the end of this break feeling that they have accomplished something. This could be a good time for some informational interviews for your student to learn about a career, or a good time to complete next year’s FAFSA or apply for some new scholarships. It can be a good time to update a resume or begin to investigate possible summer jobs or internships. Just getting something done will help your student feel positive and get a head start on next semester.

Alone time

Being with family can be reassuring. Being with friends can be wonderful. But sometimes, a bit of alone time is important as well. Make sure you respect your student’s need for privacy as well as the need to take an occasional break from all of the togetherness you’ve planned. Don’t take it personally.

Find the time that you need as well

The last couple of years have taken a toll on everyone.

As you think about the kinds of time that your student needs during this winter season, think, too about what you need – and whether helping your student find the time they need may also be an opportunity for you to discover your time as well.

Related articles:

Are You Ready for the LONG Winter Break?

What Can My College Student Do During Winter Break?

Helping Your Student Use Winter Break to Get a Head Start for Spring Semester

Welcoming Your Student Home for Break: What to Expect

Shaking Up the Nest: When Your College Student Comes Home for Break

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