The First Thanksgiving

in Parent Advice
November 10th, 2018

By Liz Yokubison, writer, author and mother of Alex, ENG‘21

No, this isn’t a blog about Thanksgiving dinner. Rather, it’s a primer on what to expect the first Thanksgiving your collegian comes home. First, a reality check. It has been about two-and-a-half months since you moved your son or daughter to Boston University, and let me assure you that a lot has changed in their lives, maturity level and point of view. So don’t expect everything to be the same as the last holiday when you were all living under the same roof.

Your Student’s Perspective

In just a few short months, your student, has figured out how to live on their own. Take a moment and let that statement sink in. That means they’ve not only managed to find their classes, adjust to a college workload and determine the best food on campus, but they’ve also learned how to do their own laundry, hopefully determined how to manage their money, at least a little bit and probably spent more than one night up past their high school curfew.

What does this mean for you as a parent? If you treat your college student like a high schooler when they come home, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, establish expectations for their visit before they come home or at the very least, when you pick them up from school or the airport. Start by asking what their plans are over the break and then let them know about family activities that you’d like them to join. Thanksgiving dinner is one, but if you’d like to have a family movie night or take them out to dinner, let them know in advance. This way, they can take into account your expectations, while still catching up with high school friends. Better to discuss a few things up front than be hurt when they’re gone more than they’re home.

If They Want to Be Home

Some college students can’t wait to come home. Such was the case with our daughter, who waxed eloquently about stretching out, “starfish” in her double bed, eating homemade meals and enjoying fresh fruit, other than the requisite apples and bananas in her dining hall. While looking forward to catching up with her friends, she was equally excited about seeing us, her grandparents and snuggling up with our family dog. She also planned to work her retail job over Thanksgiving break, which meant that we really didn’t see her as much as we’d hoped. At first, I was disappointed, but in the end my husband and I realized that any time we spent with her was a gift.

Tip: If your student wants to be home, embrace it, but also give him/her the space they need to control their own schedule. They are adults now and need to be treated as such.

If They Would Rather Be at School

Other kids aren’t quite ready to come home and would, quite frankly, rather be at school. Such was the case with our son, whom we had just seen the weekend prior while we were in Boston for a swim meet. I knew he was in a different frame of mind when on the way home from the airport I asked him which high school friends he was planning to see and he responded, “I don’t know, I just really miss my college friends already.” While both kids had adjusted marvelously to their respective schools (I am the mother of twins) our son had just seen us and didn’t really feel the need to come home. Of course, none of us had foreseen this development when we made the plane reservations in September. The result was that he was irritated to be home and I was hurt that he didn’t want to be there.

Tip: If your student would rather be at school, try not to take it personally. In fact, you should take it as a positive sign. You raised a person who is ready to fly the nest and is happy with their college choice.

No matter how carefully you plan, or how much you communicate with your college student before the Thanksgiving holiday, there are bound to be some bumps in the road. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean your kids love you any less. It’s just a sign that all of you are learning and growing and adjusting to this major life transition.