Note to parents: If you have a college freshman coming home for Thanksgiving, you might want to brace yourself. Chances are, he or she has changed.
And the family reunion may be more stressful than expected.
At the University of Minnesota, counselors have seen so many ways that things can go awry that they’ve prepared a tipsheet of “Holiday Suggestions” to help things go smoother.
“Parents often think that the person coming home will be the high school student that they sent off to college,” said Glenn Hirsch, director of the U’s counseling services. But a lot can happen in a few months.
Like body piercings. Or a newfound resistance to curfews.
“Students tend to want to show their parents how much they’ve changed,” said Marjorie Savage, the U’s parent program director.
That can throw a wrench into family dynamics, especially during the first visit home.
In many cases, parents can’t wait to hear what school is like. But don’t be surprised if the students aren’t talkative. Often, “they’re really, really tired,” Savage said. “There’s a tendency to want to sleep more than talk, which can be hard on families.”
Here are some strategies, courtesy of the U experts:
• Ask about any big changes ahead of time. “When the Thanksgiving turkey is being carved is not the time parents want to hear that their child is now vegan,” the tipsheet says.
• Talk about how they’ll divide their time between friends and family. “Set some boundaries,” said Savage, such as, “We’ve got to have you home for Thanksgiving Day.” But give them time for friends.
• Consider modifying curfew rules. “A lot of parents say, ‘You don’t have to be home at such and such a time, but the car does,’ ” Savage said. “Or simply, ‘Just keep me posted.’ ”
Students can help ease the strain, too, by making time for family conversations, Hirsch says. “That doesn’t mean having to share everything,” he said, but “sharing some information helps parents feel more at ease.”
For more tips, go to tinyurl.com/lyytkee.