Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the holiday season!

Merry, merry and happy, happy!
They're home or they're coming home! I love this time of year, but I won't lie, it's an adjustment for everybody! If you haven't had a houseful this past semester then you know what I'm talking about. Just when you had things where you liked them, the gas gauge on your vehicle where you remember leaving it, the food in the fridge that you knew would be there to make all changes...but there's more to it than that.

Think back to when you were in their shoes. They have been living on their own, making their own decisions and choices about things. They've been deciding when to come home at night, (no curfews at college), when to eat and sleep, how long to sleep, maybe they've been taking naps during the course of the day. What they eat, when they study, when and how much they exercise. You have not been a factor in the structure of their day. Where we parents run into trouble is if we instantly regress and go back to the time when we did structure their days. Not a good idea. There will be conflicts a-go-go.

I know I blogged about a related timeframe when they come home for the summer (blog: Summer They're Pushing the envelope), but somehow the holiday timeframe is different. Maybe because it's a compressed period, maybe because there's more emotion associated with the holidays, maybe it's because there's a bit of a competition for your kid's time: their friends want to see and spend time with them and so do you and their siblings. It's tough to be so popular! :)

They are usually completely exhausted when they first come home. They've been burning the midnight oil, cramming a semester's worth of material into their brains, probably not eating well and most likely they're sick with a cold or worse. What I've learned through my kids, is let them sleep. Everyone's happier if your kid is rested. Some good home-cooked meals tends to be appreciated and if you're really nice, you've scheduled those doctor and dental visits for a little later in their vacation. I have that image of the Wizard of Oz when the Scarecrow, Tinman, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy all get fixed up for their visit to the Wizard, that's what it must feel like to our kids when they are home.

A friend forwarded me a good email that George Washington University's Director of Parent Services sent out. (Interesting job title, don't you think? What a reputation we parents have!) Basically he said, that it's an adjustment for everyone, a transition for everyone and there needs to be communication about expectations from both parties. Hear! Hear! I think that's the key, communicate! Let your kids know what are MFO's (mandatory family obligations) and what aren't, what your expectations are about when they come home: how late friends can stay at night, who's doing their laundry, what meals you expect them at, use of the car....believe me, when you have this conversation they'll chime in their expectations and there may have to be some compromises. Depending on who you talk to in our household, I think my kids would feel differently about who's compromised most. But that's not the point, having everyone under the same roof, co habitating and enjoying each other's company, that's the goal!
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