How to Support Your Student Over Winter Break

Keep the peace at your house with your college student.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

December 06, 2023

How to Support Your Student Over Winter Break
They’ve changed. You may have changed. Learn how you can enjoy winter break together.
You’ve likely been waiting with eager anticipation for this moment since you dropped your child off at their dorm in August. Granted, they may have just been home for Thanksgiving break, but a few days at home was not enough time. Whether you have a full itinerary fleshed out for their time at home or you’re completely clueless about what to do, here are a few tips on how to make your child feel seen, valued, and encouraged over their winter break.

How to Support Your College Student Over College Winter Break

You likely have a few expectations of how to spend your child’s time at home, but you need to consider how they would like to spend the break as well.

Give them space.

Your child just completed a marathon, between writing papers, attending study sessions, and completing finals. They need some time to breathe – and sleep. If you’re the type of parent that schedules activities and family events over winter break, be sure you’re including some downtime for your child. Between all-nighters and stress management, their body desperately needs sleep and time to simply watch holiday movies on the couch in their pajamas.

Don’t expect too much.

You may be thinking, “Great! Another set of hands around the house!” However, you may be getting a little ahead of yourself. Your child has just spent the last few months doing the bare minimum for themselves – laundry, tidying their tiny dorm space, and maybe making their bed on occasion. Give them a few days to get back into the routine of how things run in your home, but don’t let them get out of each day without doing anything to contribute.

Check with them about their own plans.

As stated above, you may have an entire “bucket list” of plans to get through with your child, but it’s more than likely that they have plans of their own. Winter break isn’t just a chance for them to come home and sleep until noon every day. They may want to visit with their high school friends or run errands of their own. Having conversations before they get home or whenever they first arrive will help you – and them – set expectations for the social calendar while they’re home.

Set aside time to ask how they’re really doing.

Regardless of which year they are in college, the college winter break is a great time to check in on how they’re doing – physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. You may have a student that gushes about their college experience, or one that merely provides one-word answers. Either way, it’s important to ask. Inquiring about their life in college lets them know that you care and that you are a safe place to bring up any struggles, hardship, or confusion. Be prepared to provide them with suggestions for college resources that can make a difference in their experience.

Tell them how proud you are of them.

Whether they are still transitioning from high school to college or they’re nearing the end of their college career, make sure you mention that you’re proud of them. It’s a big deal that they made it through a college semester on their own. Your role as a parent is changing too. You’re no longer their chief advisor and decision-maker. Rather, you’re more like a mentor. The encouragement and support that you provide can make a big difference in how they view themselves, their work, and their failures and successes.

Have fun!

Your time with your college-age child may feel limited – between late nights with high school friends and sleeping in until noon – but you can still make the most of those moments you do have with them. Schedule some relaxing one-on-one time with them once holiday shopping and family obligations are through. Here are a few ideas: • A relaxing day at a spa or a quick mani/pedi. • An afternoon at the movies. • A night out at an arcade, so they can feel like a kid again. • A local sporting event, like basketball, football, or hockey. • Ice skating at their hometown rink. We know you’d prefer to have all their time and attention, but with college students, that’s not realistic. Set achievable expectations for their college winter break and enjoy the time you do share with them. The goal at the end of the break is to send them back to school refreshed, less stressed, and encouraged.

How to Support Your High School Student Over Break

With high school students, winter break is a little different. After all, you still see them in the mornings, evenings, and weekends, and you know their schedule like the back of your hand. Still, their lives are stressful as they complete coursework, take finals, and go through the college admissions process. Make sure that their winter break allows time for them to rest and see friends but also help around the house and attend family functions. Finally, schedule some 1-on-1 time with them. It won’t be long before they’re only home for school-designated breaks. Use this last – or last few – winter breaks to make some core memories with them.

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