By Mandy Seiner, ’18
For most students who do not reside in Boston year-round, Thanksgiving is the first time they will return home after leaving for the school year. For first year students and their families especially this can be a shock, as the student has become accustomed to the freedoms of college life away from home.
I spoke with Kyle Labe, a sophomore writing major from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania about what it was like returning home for the holiday last year. He said that there were two big adjustments he had to make. The first was being under the eye of his parents again. Kyle said that he had become accustomed to doing what he wanted to do on impulse whenever he wanted, and when he was home it seemed that he had to plan his schedule out more ahead of time to adhere to his parents’ expectations and curfews. This was a difficult re-calibration after having had a taste of complete freedom. The second adjustment was going back to having his own room. This had both its pros and cons, as he enjoyed having his own space, but missed the slumber-party-like time with his roommate, with whom he was very close.
I found Kyle’s sentiments very relatable. Returning home for the first Thanksgiving, and all breaks after, felt and still sometimes feels like a step backwards regarding personal freedoms and independence. As a student, you go from being fully autonomous to having others partially govern your time and decisions for you. One way to approach this is to have a discussion with your student before they come home or very shortly after about what family commitments they have during the break and what plans they may have already made or want to make with their friends while everyone is back on the old stomping grounds.
It’s a good idea to discuss curfews as well, while trying to be sympathetic to your student’s expectations. Consider setting a curfew for the car and not the person, or requiring that they let you know their whereabouts at a certain time, rather than making them be home by that time. It’s a learning curve for everybody.
Additionally, things change while you are away from home and this can come as a shock to everybody the first time, or any time you come back. One thing that never fails to surprise and amuse me is that every time I come back to visit my parents’ house (I’m not sure at what point it became my parents’ house and not my own) is how the furniture is rearranged or there is some new appliance to reckon with. The last time I visited I met Alexa, my family’s Amazon Echo, which my grandmother apparently often argued with. There are always new businesses in town and new things happening with friends and family when I return, and this can sometimes feel like a whirlwind to handle at first. On the flip side, families are often surprised to see changes in their students’ behavior, hairstyle, language, and dress, just to name a few. Consider asking for a heads up about any major changes before they come home (even if just to let grandma know that Billy now has blue hair).
The holiday is a great time to catch up and see your student in the midst of the semester. By adjusting both of your expectations and having productive and intentional conversations, you can make the reunion a great one.