Advice to parents about college winter break: Plan ahead to increase the odds that your offspring will hang out with you, not just their friends.
Here's a guide to colleges with specific parenting advice for the holidays:
Prepare yourself. "As a parent, especially if it's the first year your kids are away at college, you do have to really think through what your expectations are going to be for your kids," says Mason Turner, chief of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. "They want to see their friends. Some of that is very healthy. Discouraging it is not necessarily the best idea."
Don't make too many demands. "Be flexible," says Turner.
Book some dates. Get your college kids to commit to times for a few specific activities,says Nashua, N.H., psychologist Carl Hindy, the father of four and the co-author of If This Is Love, Why Do I Feel So Insecure? "Be aware that you might not get prime time…Don't feel bad if you don't rank for Friday or Saturday night!"
Be empathetic. "Was it different when you were their age?" says Hindy.
Invite your kids' friends to join your family. You can reconnect with your own offspring – and the children you watched grow up with them, says Hindy. Why not plan a gathering with several families?
Shop together. Go as a team to stock up on basics, not to spend lots of money. "Look, two tubes of toothpaste for the price of one!" says Hindy.
Eat together. "I know it seems like baiting the hook, but I know I have a high success rate with food," says Hindy. "There are certain restaurants that just seem to work, like the Brazilian Steakhouse (14 types of meats, in unlimited supply for my carnivores)."
Suggest daytime activities. When my husband was home from college for winter break, he helped his dad deliver fruit baskets to good customers. His father simply said, "Why don't you ride along?" His dad also invited him to join him for morning coffee with pals. (Parents, your kids may not admit it, but they feel flattered that you want to show them off to your friends.)
Plan a mini-vacation. Your kids may decide they're not too old for a family trip, after all – "if the bait is appealing enough!" says Hindy. "That might mean bringing along a friend or boyfriend or girlfriend, and of course respecting their need for time alone."
Be a chauffeur. Say, "Of course, I'll drive you back to the airport or to college," says Hindy. "I count on the drive times for some longer opportunities to talk."
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