Q: How do I prepare myself to spend Christmas break with my parents?
The scene is set; the house is decorated for Christmas just as it always is. There’s a slightly bent 70’s topper on the tree and a sun-bleached Nativity scene in the yard. The whole family is excited to have Jonny back for three weeks after his first semester away at college!
Mom rushes to the front door to greet him and gives him a big hug, so glad to have her “little” boy back home. But as the first week goes by, his parents realize this isn’t the same Johnny they dropped off in August. And tensions begin to build….
Navigating family time after being away is a normal part of college life. So, how do you get ready to go back to the world you’re starting to leave behind?
Step 1: Prepare yourself for the changes. You’ve grown in your independence and adulthood while at college. Think about the ways you have changed, and find words to describe them. You managed your own “curfew,” took care of yourself when you were sick, and maybe even did your own laundry (please, have done your own laundry!). Awareness of who you were and who you now are will help with steps 2 and 3.
Step 2: Anticipate different expectations. You have grown, but your parents didn’t see it happen. They might expect certain aspects of you to be the same as they were. Maybe your parents still expect you to need the same rules and boundaries they had in place during your childhood. They might think you still need a curfew to make sure you get enough sleep, but you’ve been managing your own “bedtime” for months (how well you’ve done this is debatable). Your parents will need some time, evidence, and opportunity to adjust their expectations to fit with the new, more-independent you.
Step 3: Settling in. This is the phase that can take time and might cause the most friction. As the new you and your parents’ perception work to fit together, show them grace. You know what you are capable of, but extend grace to your parents that their intentions are good. Share your insights about yourself to help them understand that the old rules might not apply, instead of pushing back. Your parents know how their house runs best, and ways you have adapted to life at JBU might not work while you are at home.
Here’s the thing—your family is like a puzzle, and you’ve been a missing piece for 4 months. You’ve grown and don’t quite fit the hole you left, which might not even be the same shape anymore. To fit back in, you’ll need to bend a little, and so will your family. Approaching this challenge by offering grace rather than resistance is a great way to practice honoring your parents. You’ll be independent again, soon enough.