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College Students Returning Home for the Holidays

Are you nervous about what to expect when you return home after an extended absence? The first year of school brings many tough adjustments along with the many rewards of independence. For the first time in his or her life, a student has the opportunity to create his or her own lifestyle. In college, there are no parents to oversee your actions: You set your own schedule, pick your own friends, and make or break your own rules. When you first leave the nest, the opportunity to exert your independence seems daunting. Once accustomed to playing by your own rules however, the thought of returning home can be just as intimidating.

The Inner Conflict

Many college students, especially freshmen, are tempted not to return home for the holidays during their first semester. The changes that students undergo while away at school will have an effect on how they reconnect with their friends and family back home. The conflict over returning doesn't reflect how much you care about your family; it simply arises because the situation is unfamiliar and most students feel defensive of their newly-established lifestyle. In college, we forsake all boundaries - even in our intellectually stimulating and intensely academic conversations with fellow students. Returning to propriety is understandably jarring.

Resolving to Return

The longer you wait to visit the folks, the harder it will be. The truth is that they love you in spite of what college has done to you (shifted your political views, inflated your ego, changed your hair color, made you feel independent). The fact that they auctioned off your bedroom to a younger sibling is of no consequence. Really. If you are debating about whether to return, go home. In a few short years you'll appreciate why — there are only so many opportunities and your parents are likely paying for your indoctrination. Thankfulness goes a long way. Pick up a poinsettia and give your mom the greeting she's been waiting for. Appreciating your family indicates a level of maturity that you may not have had when you left, and this will set the tone for your visit.

What to Expect

When you return, you will notice changes in the family dynamic. While you were living on campus, you gained a level of independence that you probably weren't afforded while you lived at home. It may not seem like it, but your parents are aware of this. At some point during your visit, your independence will probably provoke you to rebel against a house rule that was established while you were in high school. When this happens, step back and assess the situation. Answer this question: Who's cooking Thanksgiving dinner? If the answer isn't you, hold off on your objections. Your parents won't adjust to all of the changes in your lifestyle overnight.

Tensions may be heightened with your parents, but interacting with your siblings should be a pleasant relief. Typically, when you return you will find that you get along much better with younger brothers and sisters. In their minds at least, you're an adult now and this has caused their admiration of you to increase and the frequency of petty arguments to diminish.

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