Ep. 64: Home for the Holidays: Preparing for Your College Kid to Come Home

I think when you’re talking about your kids coming home for a longer period of time, whether it is for Christmas or summer, setting that expectation up is really important because otherwise, you get frustrated with them on the couch and we don’t always use our best parenting skills when we are frustrated.
Maria Horner

Maria demonstrating “The Look” (Ep. 22: Jedi Mom Tricks #1)

In Episode 64, I’m chatting with Maria Horner from Catalina Island Camps. Our topic is “Home for the Holidays: Preparing for Your College Kid to Come Home.” We discuss the intricacies of their re-entry, how to manage and communicate expectations, and how to make your home the soft place to land that your tired kid needs.

If you like listening to us chat, you can find our previous episodes (the Jedi Mom Tricks series) here:

Ep. 22: Jedi Mom Tricks with Maria Horner, Part 1

Ep. 33: Jedi Mom Tricks with Maria Horner, Part 2

Ep. 42: Jedi Mom Tricks with Maria Horner, Part 3


When kids come home for Thanksgiving or any other holiday, even summer vacation, it is always a big change – especially when they return after their first semester away at college.

Every member of the household must adapt to a new normal.

It may be a familiar experience for families whose kids attended summer camp. One of the great things about camp is that it helps to ease parents into the realization that their kids are okay without them, maybe even thriving. Camp is good preparation for later life.

Letting go of the tendency to over-parent before they leave home makes it much easier when they return.

Ways to create stress-free re-entries for your child

  • Talk with your child about what is different about their life at school and at home.
  • Discuss your schedule so that expectations are set and keep lines of communication open.
  • Make a list of family events on the calendar so they are aware of obligations ahead of time. Leave the rest of the schedule open for them to make their own plans.
  • Give them assignments so that they are contributing to the household.
  • Pick your battles. Parents will need to adjust their demands to avoid causing more contention. College Freshman particularly are going to be exhausted and need downtime. They are going to want to reconnect with their friends.
  • When you have multiple kids, and one is coming back into the home, think about what could be sticking points ahead of time.
  • Ask your children for their input on how they feel these issues ought to be handled.
  • Keep up the traditions you may have had when kids were younger so that your connection time is coupled with these familiar touch points and experiences.

Other Words of Wisdom

  • Find like-minded parents who have kids just a few years older than your kids and turn to them for wisdom and advice.
  • Think about what you are doing, even when your kids are young, to maintain some of your self and have something outside of your kids, and to stay connected to your spouse.
  • Have regular connection time with friends outside of your family.
  • Find a hobby or practice a talent such as art, knitting, tennis, or cooking. Don’t be afraid to try new things expand your interests so that you can find enjoyment outside your child.


Maria: “It is reasonable to let them regroup, refresh, and maybe binge watch TV over their break.  But for longer stays at home, it is worth discussing what jobs, responsibilities, and contributions that will make to the household while they are home.”

Audrey: “What your expectations are of your kids once they’ve gone away from your home and they no longer live there full time … or any time they go to a new setting, are developing new habits, and a new life without your family structure…they are going to come home different.”

Maria: “And because you are in the same familiar environment and structure, how you’ve changed in that same period of time has not kept pace with how your child has changed. So maybe two months have passed but for your kid in a new, unique, different, challenging environment their growth is way more than two months.”

Maria: “Conflict, stress, and anxiety come when your experience is out of line with your expectations.”

Brené Brown, Dare to Lead



Further Reading

5 Ways to Avert Thanksgiving Disappointment

5 Ways to Stay Connected to Your College Kid

5 Must-Reads Before You Drop Your Child at College

Ready for Adulthood Checklist for Kids


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