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

Mistake #3: Expecting his undivided attention

While you worked hard to prepare his room, bake his favorite treats, and plan all the fun things you will do together during Christmas break, you may need to face the reality that he has a completely different agenda. He may want to reconnect with high school friends, hang out with his college friends who live in the area, or take a road trip to visit friends in another state.

Although you naturally want to spend every minute with your son, recognize that you’re at a transitional stage in your relationship. He’s just a few years away from living independently and perhaps starting a family of his own. Whether you’re ready for it or not, from now on he will spend the vast majority of his time away from his family. If you've done your job right, he will be an independent adult in a few years and won't be camped out in your basement after graduation. This is the goal, right? Perhaps you can look at these breaks as a trial run for the holidays in the not-so-distant future when you will have to share him with his future spouse and (gulp!) the future in-laws.

Again, it’s best to address this at the outset of the break. Discuss which family events and traditions you consider to be most important and which are non-negotiable and decide together how you will navigate the holiday schedule. You may be willing to sacrifice the family cookie baking day but feel that the Christmas Eve service at church and the family Christmas party are non-negotiable. Be clear about your expectations and be willing to let go of an activity (or two) that isn't as important to you. Also, at the outset of the holiday season, find out which family traditions he loves and wants to participate in. How will he feel if you cut down the family Christmas tree without him? Would you be willing to postpone it a week or two so he can participate? You may be surprised to find out that the kid who complained about your family traditions every year voices strong objections to being left out of them.