Home For The Holidays
Do you remember what an amazing feeling it was the moment winter break officially begun? Whether it was that last bubble filled in on a Scantron, the last research paper turned in, or the moment your bags were packed, nothing compares to that exact moment when you know that it’s time to finally, finally, relax.
In a few weeks, your student will be experiencing the same feelings as they complete the semester and head home to celebrate the holidays and new year. While the break may seem long at first, it will fly by before you both know it. How can you make the best use of this time to ensure your loved one not only enjoys their time off, but arrives back on campus ready to take on another semester? We believe it all starts with a mix of relaxation and preparation.
After countless hours of studying, blurred vision from re-reading textbook passages too many times, and a lack of decent sleep, winter break should be a relaxing time for your student. Here’s three ways to help them do just that:
#1: Give Them the Comforts of Home
Living in a small dorm room and being limited to food offered at on-campus dining locations is enough to make any student miss home! Help your student wind down and relax by focusing on the comforts of home that they may have missed out on while they were away.
One obvious way to do this is through their stomachs: Be sure to make a few of their favorite meals! It doesn’t have to be something extravagant, either. Sometimes the simplest of comfort foods, like mac and cheese or scrambled eggs, just taste better when a parent makes it the way they like. Consider freezing a few servings of their favorites, as well as holiday leftovers, for them to take back to campus.
Other easy ways to make your student feel at home include doing their laundry, encouraging cuddle time with family pets, and making sure their bedroom is warm, inviting, and comfortable.
#2: Make Time For Traditions
What would the holidays be without a few traditions? Whether your family always cuts down a Christmas tree, has a huge holiday cookie bake-off, or throws a holiday movie night, keeping these traditions can help your student feel like time hasn’t completely slipped away from them while at school.
If you don’t have any concrete holiday traditions, consider this a great time to start! Some ideas include:
- Doing a funny holiday card photo shoot
- Volunteering for a charity or nonprofit
- Creating a holiday playlist
- Having a board game night
- Playing the Left-Right Christmas Game
- Eating pizza by the Christmas tree
#3: Encourage Downtime
It may be tempting for you to want to do a lot of things with your student while they’re home — you’ve missed them being in the house, after all, and your mind may be buzzing with tons of ideas for fun activities! However, it’s important to keep in mind that your loved one may be perfectly content doing absolutely nothing. Final exams can be taxing on a student, and they may long for what winter breaks used to feel like before they were in college: Opportunities to stay up late and do whatever they wanted.
Encourage them to decompress and lounge around as much as they may like, even if it means having to turn a blind eye as they spend five hours scrolling on their phone, staying up until 3 am playing video games, or sleeping in until lunchtime. These are the luxuries that your student most likely hasn’t experienced in a while and, once they’ve graduated and have full-time jobs, these opportunities will become even more scarce.
Additionally, make sure your loved one has some opportunities to get together with childhood friends who may also be back in town. Reminiscing with buddies your student has grown up with is a great way for them to feel at-home and back in their comfort zone.
Once your student has been relaxing and enjoying their break, it’s time to start helping them prepare for the spring semester. They’ve most likely done a good majority of the preparation before their final exams were even done — things like signing up for classes, maintaining or switching living arrangements, and deciding on meal plans, have probably been covered. However, they may be missing some of the smaller but crucial details, especially ones that go beyond the first few weeks back and end up benefiting them the whole semester long. That’s where you come in!
#1: Get Them in a Healthy Mindset
Most parents wouldn’t be surprised to hear that college students struggle with anxiety and depression. A study by the American Psychiatric Association found that 34% of students were being treated for mental health issues, as opposed to only 19% in 2007. Winter break is a great time to check in with your loved one about their mental health, as well as an opportunity to notice any changes in behavior that might indicate potential warning signs.
The good news is you can help your student eliminate some of the stressors that college brings, as well as the anxiety of a new semester, in plenty of little ways! First, encourage them to focus on making healthy meal choices. Cooking their own food, regardless of the ingredients, will be better than living on frozen meals, and it’s a great opportunity to start building a skill that will benefit them later in life. Consider getting them a cookbook that has simple dishes they can create on a budget with minimal experience or cooking supplies, like The College Man’s Cookbook.
Other simple but effective gift ideas include a brand new water bottle to encourage more hydration, a reading pillow, a 2020 planner to keep them organized, or a Himalayan salt lamp or oil infuser to help set a soothing tone in their room.
#2: Restock on Supplies They’ll Need
Your student may become such a pro at relaxing during the winter break that the thought of picking up extra supplies may completely slip their mind! With so many great deals going on during the holidays, it’s the perfect time to shop around and set aside a few essentials that they can bring back to campus with them.
Items that your student will never have enough of:
- Detergent and fabric softener
- A fresh pair of earbuds
- Stationary items, including pens, pencils, and sticky notes
- Tissue boxes
- Paper plates
Or, save yourself a trip and grab a few of these items in one click with the Back to School Essentials crate!
#3: Send Them Back With Something Fun
When thinking of how to help prepare your student to head back to school, one thing certainly can’t be missed: Preparing them to de-stress and have some fun! College is a great time for students to learn life skills and grow their independence, but it’s also a time to make lasting friendships and great memories.
College students don’t often have the budget to spend a lot on entertainment. Most of the time, the fun is happening in their own living spaces, which means that items need to be small, interactive, and group-friendly.
The best part? You can incorporate some of these into your holiday gifts! Items that are destined to get some good times rolling include Bluetooth speakers that can be carried anywhere, as well as board games, card games, or a new game for their console of choice.
For a more creative approach, consider purchasing supplies for a group painting night, or disposable cameras to capture their next get-together in an old school way. If movies and TV shows are a big part of your student’s life, subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix can provide hours of entertainment and great opportunities for fun movie nights.
By taking time to ensure your student is relaxed and prepared this winter break, you’re helping to give them the reset they need to do their best work in the semester ahead. While they may not realize it right away, don’t worry — they’ll thank you one day!