Preparing for the holidays: parent perspectives

Coming homeIt can be difficult to know how to prepare for the holidays, and we’d like to try to provide some help this fall!

This is the first in a three-part series on preparing for the holidays.  The first installation comes from tips from parent and family council members who have upperclassmen at Whitworth.  On Tuesday, you’ll hear some thoughts from current students, and on Wednesday, you’ll hear from professionals in Whitworth’s Health & Counseling Center.


  • Make sure you are on the same page as far as what the weekend holds. You may have family events in mind, and he may have made plans with his friends. Talk about it now.
  • Ask your son/daughter what they are most looking forward to during the break!
  • Share with them your hopes for the break and find some common ground.
  • Our student grew in independence and has made some great decisions during their first fall away.  We did our best to acknowledge that and to ask what their hopes were for their break.  That helped to keep hopes and expectations in check on both sides.  Does he/she need to expect a curfew?  Is the car available?  New dietary needs in the family?
  • A hug says quite a bit!
  • Having seen great growth in our son last fall, we took time to tell our student that we are proud of him and that we notice the new maturity (even in small things).  We shared that we know it will change the dynamic at home and we looked forward to experiencing the change with him.
  • Your student has likely changed this fall – provide a safe space for them to tell you how they’re growing, what they’re learning.  And, do your best not to be scared if they’re growing in ways that are different than you’ve anticipated!


  • The family has probably established some new norms and inside jokes while your student was away.  Take extra care to include them.
  • When our student went away to Whitworth, I think he felt the old home life would stand still (or should have).  As a senior in high school often life revolved around him (or at least he thought it did).  Now he returned home and found that it continued to function without him.   We used it as a great opportunity to re-introduce our student to our very interesting family.  We planned something fun for when he got home at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Go indoor go-carting, golfing, bowling….in our case dirt bike riding with our extended family.  Whatever it is you do just so you have an active activity to laugh and include them in.  This will make coming home something to look forward to as compared to something awkward.
  • Carry out family traditions for the holidays; kids are looking for something that is tangibly the same – cutting the family tree over Thanksgiving weekend, making cookies, watching football, special Christmas Eve/Day dinner, play board games, take cookies to the homeless, etc.
  • Start a new tradition now that they are adults, too!  Allow them the opportunity to choose!
  • We encouraged our student to invite his friends over for a “reunion” of sorts.   Buy pizza and drinks, you will be a hero. They will want to reconnect so this shows you support it.  You don’t want your student to feel they have to choose between family OR friends when it can be family and friends.  Perhaps open your home to a gathering of their hometown friends; be available, but let them run the party.


  • Set low expectations so you’re not disappointed.  Try not to overfill the schedule so you can enjoy time relaxing and enjoying the true meaning of the Christmas season.
  • The time between the end of Thanksgiving break and the start of Christmas break is only about 12 days this year.  They may have to study for a final or two while home.
  • Allow plenty of time for them to SLEEP!
  • Laundry.  Is it coming home?  Who is going to do it?
  • Remind your son/daughter to pack clothes they may need while at home…nice shirt/pants, warm gear for a ski trip, etc.  Don’t assume they will remember to pack what they need as they’ve had their mind on studying, rather than making a packing list.  Email the list about a week ahead so they can refer to it rather than trying to remember a phone conversation when they pack a suitcase/duffle bag after their last final.


  • This is a “new” holiday season – it’s never happened before.  Keep your hands open.
  • If there are big changes in the family, acknowledge that you’re aware of them and that it’s going to be a “different” year.
  • This will be the first Thanksgiving, in 22 years, in which my “kitchen helper” will not be by my side as we sling our soggy turkey into the hot oven together.  She won’t be rolling pie dough and eating it as fast as I can make it.  My daughter has chosen a path that requires her to be away from home this year.  And, our family has changed since the last holiday season.  Things change.  So often things change, and change can hurt.  Having a child in college is about watching them change.  It means we are changing, too.  Our children deserve our vote of confidence in their new-found abilities.   We have to let them go… even though it hurts.
  • You’re all adapting to changes in your relationships – remember to be patient and to extend grace to yourself and to your student!
  • Did we mention that hugs (whether physical or virtual) help quite a bit?

Do you have other tips or tried-and-true tips you’d like to share?  Please comment.

We’re thinking of you and cheering for you this holiday season.  However this holiday is going to look for your family, we hope you’ll find moments of joy and connection with your Whitworth student!  Happy Thanksgiving.

This entry was posted in Faith, Health and Wellness, Parenting College Students, Parents and Families, Staying Connected, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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