First Long Visit Home November & December

Thanksgiving break is just around the corner for your college student. This first trip home can be both a wonderful and stressful experience. After being away at college for a few months you will realize quickly your child is no longer the same person who arrived at JMU in August. A few things to plan and ponder prior to the residence halls closing and for the time at home during this first extended break home include: travel plans, changes, and parental and student expectations.

"A few things to plan and ponder... travel plans, changes, and parental and student expectations."

TRAVEL: Create a travel plan, but be flexible. If your child is flying home or using some other form of public transportation you have probably already made arrangements, however if you haven’t begin as soon as possible to avoid any issues with your student not being able to leave per the university’s guidelines. This will help relieve any unnecessary stress. If you are coming to campus to pick up your student, build in additional time. Your student may still be packing when you arrive, have a lot of dirty laundry to gather up, and may want to say additional goodbyes to friends and hallmates. There will also be a large number of other parents coming to pick up their child and this may cause some congestion on campus. Prepare by bringing some snacks and drinks for the ride, although don’t be surprised if your student sleeps the whole trip home.

CHANGES: There may be changes at home and with your college student. As you are preparing for the break, make sure your student knows of any changes at home. Has the house been rearranged? Has the room your child once occupied been turned into a guest room or home office? Are you moving? Knowing about these and any other family changes will help ease your student back to home life. Your student will have grown and changed since you dropped them off. You are sending them to college to help them become independent and to grow and develop so don’t be surprised if they have changed. Expect that they have changed. To avoid any awkward moments, ask them about any changes prior to picking them up, such as: tattoos, hairstyles, new eating habits, and/or significant others. The important thing to remember when dealing with change is to be accepting and understanding. This will help you and your student have a successful and wonderful break.

"Knowing about these and any other family changes will help ease your student back to home life."

EXPECTATIONS: Some of the changes will be subtle, but some may clearly cause conflict. Expectations about curfew, “going out,” and the holiday schedule that you have prepared may ultimately be juxtaposed with your student staying up and out at all hours and having already made plans to spend time with friends from home. Your student may chafe against some of the rules of being back home because of the freedom and independence they’ve experienced while away at school. Being responsible for their own time and not answering to others about where they have been and what they have been doing may be in stark contrast to curfew and questioning imposed upon them. Discussing expectations and having clear, open, and honest communication prior to break may ease the transition home.

"Discussing expectations and having clear, open, and honest communication prior to break may ease the transition home."

FINAL THOUGHTS: The act of leaving home and coming to college usually necessitates the evolution and development of the parent/child relationship. The set of rules that once were the backbone of the familial home may be at odds with your student’s collegiate experience. The ability to come and go as they please, making their own decisions, and having a different sense of time may not align with curfews, someone asking where they are going and when they will be returning, sleeping in and/or being up at 3 am. You may end up feeling like a consultant and more of a resource. This is a normal experience and one that has played out many times over the years. You have instilled in your student your values, morals, and integrity. Now is the time to experience this new normal and see the growth and development in your soon to be adult child.

Other common stressors may include: homesickness, initial adjustments to a new academic environment, values exploration, social life adjustments, initial social reflections, becoming familiar with campus, long distance relationships, feeling inadequate, and/or financial adjustments. Short articles on these and other topics can be found throughout the year at www.jmu.edu/orl/families/newsletter.shtml.

We look forward to getting to know your students and are available to help with the transition to JMU. If you have any questions about anything related to residence life, feel free to check out the rest of our website, give us a call at (540) 568-HOME, or email us at res-life@jmu.edu.