Tips for Keeping You (and Your College Student) Sane during the Holiday Break

Release Date: Friday, December 9, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA – It’s inevitable. When your college student comes back home for winter break after their first semester away at school- things are different. They may look different, act different, and have different expectations. College students are not used to following Mom and Dad’s rules or routines after months of freedom. Coupled with the stress of the holidays, and it can become a nuclear melt-down of the communication between you and your child. How can parents and students alike make the long break between semesters work for both sides?

According to Sheila Kennedy, SSJ, Ph.D., director of the counseling center at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, Pa., students are entering a phase called “separation-individuation,” where students are making the transition into adulthood, becoming more independent from their families, and establishing their own lives. “Students now have their own routines, so now that they are coming home, family life may be different,” says Kennedy. “Understand that your student may want time to see their friends as well as spend time with family.”


Here are some things Dr. Kennedy suggests both students and parents can do to make the transition easier.



  • Communicate with your student before they come home, and have them share what they hope to do over the holidays, in addition to letting them know about any changes in the home life since they have last visited. Communicating in advance can help to clear up confusion about plans and expectations while they are home. Negotiate issues in advance, like what curfew will be.
  • Be positive, and give encouraging complements to your student. Try not to be critical of any changes to their appearance or behavior since they left for school, and give them a chance to show who they are becoming.
  • Learn about, and ask about their friends at school. Find out who they spend time with, and what they enjoy doing while they are not studying.
  • Take time out of the holiday visits and obligations to spend quality time together.



  • Make sure you are communicating with parents and family, and take responsibility for your actions. (For example, letting your family know where you are going and when you will return) “Students should not see this as their families checking up on them, but more of a part of the common good and a caring relationship with other adults,” says Kennedy.
  • Be realistic that rules at home will be different then at school, and adjustments will need to be made. Be aware that Household routines will not change because you are home, and may be different then when you left.
  • Show your parents in your actions that you are responsible for yourself- Do the laundry, help out with some yard work, or offer to cook a meal.


Dr. Kennedy is available to speak more about this topic. Please contact Lisa Mixon, media relations manager at 215.753.3664 if you wish to speak with her.