Home for the Holidays
There's no place like home for the holidays. Commercials and
holiday shows tell us that the holidays should be shining and
perfect. As end of the semester pressures subside, most students
can't wait to get home, relax and be around family, eat some decent
food, see old friends, go to some parties and participate in family
traditions. There is nothing more joyful than a happy holiday
However, where there is so much potential for happiness, there
is also great risk for disappointment and sadness. Students returning
from college can experience a let-down when their expectations
are not met.
Some students may have been remembering only the good things
about being home, and when they get there, remember that there
is a lot of stress in their household. Many students, exhausted
from the general stress of college life, are looking forward to
a sleeping vacation punctuated with seeing old friends. Meanwhile
family members are expecting their college student to be home
in both body and spirit. They may be expected to attend a high
school concert for a younger sister or do everything a little
brother has planned to do. Parents may have plans for a student
to help in holiday preparations. When students do get to see their
old friends, they often find that everyone had changed and things
just aren't the same anymore. Maybe instead of being able to just
relax, a student will have to work long hours.
There may have been some changes in family financial status
and it is just not possible to have the same level of material
gifts a student may be used to. Or as students, there are a million
things you want and need and the big gift is an electric blanket.
Holidays are a challenging time for children of any age who
have divorced and separated parents. It can be especially difficult
if the separation has occurred during the last year and this is
the first holiday to negotiate the time between two households.
There may have been other big changes in either the immediate
or extended family that may be especially poignant at holiday
time. A married sister may be spending the holidays in another
state with her husbands family. Maybe Aunt Sadie died last spring
and she is the one who always made sure the lighting of the Menorah
for Hanukkah was done properly. Maybe a grandfathers health has
deteriorated to the point that he can't read the Christmas story
for the family on Christmas Eve.
There can be a million other glitches. Students can stretch
their physical capacities to the limit, pull several all-nighters,
make it through finals and go home and get sick. It seems that
holiday time is often a time for broken hearts. A student may
be trying to recover. All they want to do is be left alone and
get lost in a mystery novel. The car that is desperately needed
for student teaching or an internship breaks down. Then there
is the stress of the parents who want to relive their lives by
talking about everything that is going on in the life of their
college student. Besides that, grades from the fall semester can
help or add to the tension.
Communication and negotiation with family members can smooth
out many potential problems. Let parents know what your needs
are. Be prepared to do some of the things your family has been
planning for you. If it is your first time home from college,
you may also have to negotiate a curfew.
Negotiating with divorces parents can be extra challenging.
There may be situations which you can do nothing about. Think
realistically about what would be best for you, and let both of
your parents know. Maybe that is just what they need to know.
Sometimes there is just nothing you can do, but accept what "is."
Sadly, this is also true of families where the parents are still
together, but where there is a great deal of conflict.
Be prepared to discover that both you and your friends may
have changed and it may mean that you can appreciate the changes
rather than just mourning the way things were.
Maybe you are one of those with a broken heart for the holidays.
Grieving a lost relationship takes energy. So it's okay to take
time out and isolate a little, but also plan to reconnect with
family and friends.
Maybe you are one who has suffered some losses in significant
people since last year at this time. If that is the case, even
if it seems hard, don't run away from the sadness or try to make
yourself forget. Plan a more relaxing holiday and give yourself
time to remember and be sad and even be glad for the memories.
Holiday and family gatherings present an opportunity to reminisce.
To waylay the disappointment from gifts and the loss of holiday
magic, try to change your focus outward a little. Look for some
new holiday traditions, maybe help in a soup kitchen, play Santa
Claus for the neighborhood, visit a nursing home alone or with
friends. Cook something new. Plan a different kind of party.
Having realistic expectations, being able to negotiate and making some
adjustments can help make it a happy and healthy holiday season.
If you are concerned about your holiday and having a difficult time
managing some of your feelings, call 436-3368 to make an appointment
with the counseling center.