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K-State Parents and Family Association

The long break: How to navigate and enjoy your time together

By Molly McGaughey

My favorite, newly found TV show is The Middle. It’s been around for a while but I didn’t discover it until this summer. I think at this point I’ve seen almost every episode. And it’s not a guilty pleasure if I’m willing to announce to the world that I love it, right? One of the things I love best about the show is that it depicts a family that is terribly imperfect but still incredibly likeable. In most cases the plot has realism and will make almost any parent consider how they handle similar situations.

The season five episode “The Christmas Tree” displays an interesting mother-son dynamic. The college student returns home for his first long visit and wants to spend all his time with friends. A negotiation ensues over attendance requirements and expectations for “seeming to care” and acting as if family activities are enjoyable. No real-life family is as thick-skinned as the Hecks, but this whole episode did remind me of my Mollymother telling me I was hurting her feelings by spending the majority of my time with friends during my visits home after starting college.

If you have concerns about how the upcoming break will go, touch base with your student. But first:
– read some advice here [i]
– consider your own feelings and what is most important to you
– check in with other family members still at home and see if they have ideas about time together
– share with and listen to your student before the break begins (because once break starts, the texts and friend invites will start!)

Next up
Don’t burden your student with the following details during your initial discussion about time together, but do plan on a second conversation as soon as you can. Think twice before you decide to treat your student as an honored guest unless you always plan to do so. These breaks are also acting to establish house rules and rules of behavior. Summer will be here soon and you are laying the ground work now. How will your home and family function? Who is doing the laundry? Who is doing the dishes? Do you expect to know the who/what/when/where of activities away from the family?

It is recommended that the rules should change from high school but it is up to you how they should change. There might be more responsibility, more freedom, or both. And remember you are not alone! See how The New York Times described this family predicament a few years ago. [ii]

[i] College Parents of America. n.d. “Welcoming your college student home for visits – What to expect.” Retrieved 4 December 2015.
< http://www.collegeparents.org/members/resources/articles/welcoming-your-college-student-home-visits-%E2%80%93-what-expect >
[ii] Hoffman, J. 31 December 2012. “The Return of the Natives.” The New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2015. < http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/03/garden/holiday-break-tests-the-spirits-of-freshmen-and-their-parents.html >

About the author
Molly McGaughey has worked in a variety of capacities in Admissions at Kansas State beginning in 2006. She graduated from K-State the first time with a B.S. in History in 1995, added a graduate certificate in Public Administration, and an M.S. in Family Studies and Human Services more recently. This master’s program focused on positive youth development from age 10 to 20. Modern psychology, sociology, and educational research offer a new perspective on the teenage years.