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Answers to Your College Questions

Thanksgiving Break: Are You Ready for Your College Student to Come Home?

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 For many families, Thanksgiving break is the first opportunity for students to come home since they left for college. But now that your kid has been living on their own for a while, things could seem a little different. Are you prepared? Learn what to expect with this excerpt from The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only by New York Times bestselling author Harlan Cohen.

college student home for thanksgivingThanksgiving break is a very exciting time for parents. Having your child home again is just about the most wonderful thing that could happen (that and actually cooking the turkey to perfection). There are so many things to do and so much catching up. There are meals to share, rooms to clean, light bulbs to change, computer issues to resolve, things to buy, stuff to rearrange, relatives to see, family outings to go on—there are so many things to do as a family and so little time to do it.

College students get excited about Thanksgiving too. For them, it’s a time to sleep, eat, hang out with friends, and see a boyfriend or girlfriend. Oh, and if there’s time to visit and shop with parents, that’s a bonus too.

Notice the difference? What I’m trying to say is that first-year college students home for break might have different expectations than their parents. This is especially true of students whose break is their first visit home.

“I think that parents just need to listen to their college student and be aware that when they come home for vacations, things are going to be different. As we go through our classes at school, we evolve into who we will be in the future. I know that the first vacation I was back, my parents could tell a difference. I felt that they weren’t really prepared for that. I was much more mature when I came home for Thanksgiving than I was when I left in August. They seemed shocked about that.”

—Emily, freshman

“One thing that makes me ready to come home is the good ol’ home cookin’. During breaks, I always know that when I get home, there will be one of my favorite home-cooked meals waiting for me from either my mom or dad.”

—Jennifer, sophomore

“My advice for parents is to let their kids rest; we’ve just come off of a three-and-a-half-month ‘job,’ and we need time to relax, so don’t get on our case about jobs or volunteering, please!”

—Rachel, junior

Things to Expect during a Visit Home

  • Expect them to want to sleep a lot (college is exhausting)
  • Expect them to want to reconnect with friends
  • Expect them to want to spend time with significant others
  • Expect them to want a new curfew
  • Expect them to want to eat a lot of home cooking
  • Expect them to want to hang out at night with people other than you
  • Expect them to want to have some space to do nothing
  • Expect them to be surprised with what has changed
  • Expect them to want you to do laundry (expect the only thing you’ll get in return is lint)
  • Expect them to want you to keep their things just as they left them

Being back home is like being transported to another world. The last time your child was home he or she was a kid. So much has changed. The boy is a man and the girl is a woman. The life your daughter left behind is now part of her past. Coming back home can be like being a deer in the headlights. So try not to run her over by having too many expectations. She might actually need a break.

Is someone on your holiday shopping list heading off to college soon?

Check out The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College for hilarious stories and helpful advice to guide them through their freshman year!

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Harlan Cohen is the author of The Naked Roommate series of books and is one of the most widely read and respected syndicated advice columnists for people in their teens and twenties. His column, "Help Me, Harlan!," is distributed by King Features Syndicate. Harlan regularly tours high school and college campuses giving presentations to students, professionals, and parents. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Follow Harlan on Twitter @HarlanCohen.

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