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What to Expect When You're Expecting (Your College Kid Home for Christmas)

Congratulations. You survived the first semester of college! You made it through the first two weeks of sitting in your son’s empty bedroom with a box of tissues, wondering how the time flew by so quickly and how that little boy you used to rock to sleep in this room grew up and moved into a dorm three states away. Pat yourself on the back for not being the stalker parent who calls three times a day and instead settling for creeping on his Facebook page and watching for Twitter updates! You’ve been marking off the days on the calendar until Christmas break, planning all sorts of family activities—a whole month of family togetherness! It’s going to be just like old times!

Before you carve those plans in stone, take a few minutes to read through some of the common mistakes parents of college students make and consider how you might avoid them:

Mistake #1: Assuming he will want to do... anything

Most likely your son spent the last two weeks in a sleepless blur, sustained by coffee, energy drinks, and cold pizza. If he's a decent, conscientious student he hunkered down in the library or his dorm room writing papers and studying for finals until all hours of the night.

On top of that, he attended Christmas parties and tied up loose ends with his extracurricular activities and athletic commitments and squeezed in some last -minute quality time with his new “family” at school. When he arrives home with his duffel bag full of rancid laundry, don’t be surprised if he shows up on the verge of a complete crash or even a meltdown. He may be an emotional wreck from all the pent-up stress he’s been experiencing or he may simply be dog-tired and ready to sleep for three days straight. As a parent, if you can anticipate this possibility and allow some time for your student to unwind and recharge, everyone will be happier and the holidays will be much more pleasant. Manage your expectations and be sensitive to his feelings and energy level. If you expect your child to walk in the door and immediately jump into the flurry of family activities, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment and adding to the family stress level during the holidays. It’s best to maintain a flexible schedule, at least for the first few days of Christmas break.