Taking my kids skating last week, I ran across a group of young men back from college who were playing pickup hockey - like old times. Inside the warming house, they devoured a pizza and talked about coming back the next night and going on a ski trip to the U.P.
Which made me wonder about their parents. Their college kids may be home for the holidays, but are they ever actually at home?
Turns out, it's a common flashpoint for families, especially those with college freshmen. Students return home with a newfound sense of independence, leaving their parents to adjust, said Dean Tsouvalas of StudentAdvisor.com.
"There's usually frustration and anxiety," he said. "It comes with the season as it is."
Tsouvalas consulted with guidance counselors and parents on holiday tips for parents with college kids:
• Realistic rules. Early curfews or threats of grounding probably won't be effective. Parents should have clear conversations when their kids return home about what they expect from them. While it is OK to bend rules, parents should hold their kids accountable for the rules on which they agree.
"Students are living a nocturnal life," Tsouvalas said. "There has to be a conversation and it has to be face to face. You have to reset the rules."
• Make dates. Gatherings with friends will nibble time away. Parents should make dates with their kids for meals, shopping or other events. This also reminds teens how much their parents value being with them.
• Relate. Students might be ready to tell all about college if parents refrain from too much judgment. Parents can break the ice with tales from their college days. They can also give advice through their own experiences. Instead of telling kids to eat better at college, parents can discuss their own efforts to improve their diet and exercise.
"This is the longest [college] holiday they've had up until this point," Tsouvalas said. "This is your first chance to reconnect with your child ... as an adult."
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744