Holidays are invariably enjoyable, as well as stressful, for most of us. Add to this the re-arrival of a son or daughter from college, and the joy, as well as stress, can be multiplied. The holiday season may be associated with anxiety for a number of reasons. For college students, the holidays are often crammed just before major exams or between quarters. Thus, relaxing and enjoying the holiday itself is tempered with the stress of preparing for finals and/or the new term. And, for those who have lost a loved one during the past year, this may be the first round of major holidays to cope with since the loss. Maintaining some semblance of celebration can require an incredible degree of resiliency. Thus, tip number one is to simply realize that your student may be experiencing a myriad of feelings and stresses during the holidays. Below are some additional tips to consider.
Communicate with your student, before the holiday, about how much time you would like to spend with them, to help reduce the chances for disappointment and conflict. Perhaps you can have some special times already planned and set aside for the family, but be sure to communicate with your student regarding expectations such that acceptable compromises may be reached (if necessary).
Be flexible. Gathering many people for special celebrations can be difficult with busy schedules, and your son or daughter will likely have many friends with which they will also want to interact and enjoy. Sometimes inviting a particularly close friend to a family gathering can be an effective compromise. Yes, this will 'feel' different, but families and holidays change...and different doesn't have to be a 'bad' thing.
Encourage your student to share in traditional family rituals and possibly help them start a new ritual that is especially meaningful to him or her.
Make time to remember and cherish special memories of fun times, good friends, and wonderful things you all have accomplished.
Consider what the holiday 'means' to you (e.g., renewal, love, etc.), and try to embrace this in your interactions with your student. Be aware that your student may have forged their own new 'meanings' for the holidays, as they have been exposed to many new and challenging ideas in college. Patience, and an open mind, will prove beneficial here.
Don't expect that everything will go perfectly...it never does. But that doesn't mean the holidays, as stressful as they can sometimes be, won't be an enjoyable and rewarding time as you observe the growth and development of your student.