Making this a peaceful Thanksgiving for all

By Lee Shulman Bierer, College Admissions Strategies – Founder

The kids are coming, the kids are coming…. HOME!

The annual college-to-home migration has already begun, but parents often find themselves in a purgatory space not knowing how to deal with their children.

Here are some thoughts on how to make your Thanksgiving break more peaceful:

  • Let them chill – that means let them sleep late, don’t try to cram activities and visits into every minute they’re home. Don’t forget they’re having some weird feelings too; returning to their childhood bedroom, surrounded by stuffed animals or posters or mementos from a life that seems like ancient history to them.
  • Talk openly about your expectations. It’s important that you’re on the same page in terms of scheduling, curfews and responsibilities. Things will go much more smoothly if you alert them to family obligations and give them some freedom to spend time with their high school friends. Just try to talk it over calmly.
  • Keep the questions to a minimum – we know you want to ask them about their friends, their classes, their social lives, their activities, etc., but honestly, it can be overwhelming just returning home.
  • Recognize that they may be sad – they may not be experiencing the “best four years of their life” and that’s a lot of pressure. They may be happy at school and rather be there than be at home. There are a variety of reasons they may not be their old selves.
  • Do try to spend time with them not just in front of a screen. Taking a walk as a family or even better; one-on-one with each parent is a great way to encourage them to open up. Try playing some games – some old ones and some new ones. Nothing brings back genuine smiles more than a great game of cards.
  • Create new memories – think about establishing some new traditions – going ice skating, going to the movies, making grandma’s favorite recipes, etc., just make it fun.
  • Don’t surprise them. If you’ve turned their bedroom into your office or a man-cave or a she-shed; make sure you tell them before they arrive.
  • Don’t pick on them for the way they dress, any weight gain, a new hairstyle, etc., just let them be. The less attention you draw to these external factors the better you’ll feel about the relationship internally.

Above all, give yourself the freedom to be happy and be sad. This visit home is a milestone, and you want to set the tone so that they look forward to future visits home and you do too. Accept the fact that you’ll be frustrated at times, that they won’t clean up their room the way you’d like, that they alternately want to be treated as an adult and like your child. Give yourself time to get reacquainted with your teen. Rediscover the things you love about them and share your thoughts.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: