You may have a student who is coming home for the Thanksgiving break, perhaps for the first time since they started school. Family members can be excited and also a bit uncertain. Perhaps your daughter has experienced increased independence since you last spent time with her. Or your son has been exploring a new level of responsibility on campus. What should you expect?
The first step might be accepting that things will likely be different. Your student is negotiating who they want to be, which adult responsibilities they're ready to handle, and what direction to follow in life. That's a lot of development! And this can translate to changes in the family's structure and relationships.
It may be helpful to start with an open discussion about everyone’s expectations and desires for family time and personal time during the break. For example, some students who've experienced new independence at school will expect to spend break time as they choose.
As part of that conversation, you might proactively ask your student to save some time for you. A family party, a casual lunch, a trip to the movies, talking on the way to doctor or dentist appointments – these may be ideal ways to learn about and reinforce the positive changes you see in your returning student.
You may also wish to identify in advance any issues - like grades or finances or healthy relationships - that you want to be sure to discuss with your student. Setting aside a special time to talk might help everyone enjoy the break even more.
Above all, help your student experience your happiness and gratitude to see them! Giving students sensitivity, respect, and appropriate freedom now may yield new opportunities for interactions during this visit and beyond.
To read more about how other Michigan families experience reconnecting after a student's time away at college, check out these previous Family Matters articles. In each, a Michigan mother and daughter share their own points of view.
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