As we prepare for our first term Freshman to come home for Thanksgiving it is important to take a minute and reflect. It was just a couple of weeks ago that you completed the drop off and good by process. Take a moment, close your eyes, breathe deeply and recall what you felt at that point in time. Try and also put yourself in your son’s or daughter’s mind, and with the perspective shift, consider what they may have been feeling. Now, fast forward, blink and it is Thanksgiving. Perhaps they have been home for a weekend visit but this time marks the true first time returning to the nest for most students in terms of length of time home and friends who will also be back in town.
It is wise to plan ahead and understand they may potentially look, sound, act differently than when you left them on campus. With that in mind, talking about expectations and readjustment to family life can help everyone enjoy the holiday and time together. They have been functioning independently and may not automatically recalibrate to curfews, sharing an automobile, chores, and the normal day to day rigors of “All in the Family”.
In addition, they have been away from their friends who have adapted to new groups and life on a college campus. It is advisable to deal with things directly, upfront, and clearly by outlining expectations so room for misunderstandings is decreased. Some students return with high hopes of “back to life the way it was before leaving home”. Others have set sail and “moved on” with new peer groups and experiences. Both carry with them opportunity for disappointment and confusion. The process of sending them off and having them return will become more familiar with practice and experience.
This first Thanksgiving, enjoy them as they developmentally navigate another passage but set clear expectations and guidelines. Doing so will help you to smile as you listen, watch and revel in who they are becoming. Dialog and connection are great risk reduction tools. Use them with love and respect.