The time is almost here. Fall is fading away and winter is right around the corner. Many of us will soon be traveling by planes, trains, and automobiles back to our families for the holidays and reconnecting with parents, siblings, relatives, and old friends in a far more intimate manner than we might expect. For some, the five-minute phone calls of the regular semester are a perfect way of getting in touch without things getting “touchy”. Checking-in and sometimes reassuring those who care, without an extended conversation, can be a great way of creating “snapshots” of your lives and keep you all up to date without the perils of falling into long conversations, debates, and (sometimes) arguments that family gatherings can sometimes elicit. Not only is this stress-inducing for all, but it can prevent (or at least create a major obstacle against) getting the rest, relaxation, and bonding students and family members usually seek during these cherished and rare times.
University life is a time for personal discovery and transformation and it can sometimes be challenging for everyone concerned when the “new you” goes back home. Maybe your politics have changed, or your diet, or your religious views, or whatever. Unveiling your personal growth and achievements are something to always be proud of, however, there are ways of being yourself and expressing yourself that can be more effective and mindful than others. Remember that these are the people who have cared for and loved you through all the time before (and during) college and your academic and personal journey doesn’t need to be a potential catalyst for discord. Apply the discipline and thoughtful applications that you’ve learned in school towards having the most rewarding holiday experiences possible. Some of this can be achieved through a simple call home in advance of your travels. In addition to finalizing travel details (very important), it can be a means of preparing both your family and you so that you can all make the best of the time you have together.
Tips for the Call:
-Don’t Just Text or Email: Though texting and emails can be a quick and easy means of communication on campus and in private life, simple messages can’t convey the genuine you or allow others to do the same. Don’t expect your parents and family to adequately decode your textual shorthand or emojis like your university friends. If a phone call won’t work maybe a Skype or Zoom session would be perfect. Either way, try to make the connection and conversation as productive and beneficial as possible.
-Set Aside More Time: This isn’t the time for that five-minute check-in. Set aside an hour, if possible, and try not to rush through things and listen. This might seem a bother, but it’s likely you’ll both get more quality from an organic (not scripted) conversation and help ensure a positive visit. In addition, you might get valuable insight for the next tip.
-Get an Idea of What to Expect: Who is planning to stop by? Who will actually be there during the time or on holiday(s)? Who might be expecting you to reach out to them? Will you be able to sleep in your old room? Are there any struggles or challenges that you might need to prepare yourself for? It can be tricky and you have to be careful about prying too deeply, but there might be details and information that you can obtain and process in advance that will give you a better idea of how to conduct yourself and live with those you’ll be with.
-Be Careful with “Bombshells”: Revealing a big secret at the Thanksgiving dinner might be great drama for movies and tv, but often doesn’t have the beneficial impact that one might expect. “Ripping the bandage off” might seem the only way to tell others about some of the details of your life and facets of who you now are, at first glance, but usually doesn’t allow others the time to process the new information and productively respond. This can create situations and responses that are more reactionary and emotional than might actually be good for anyone. Using the call as a way of gauging what you unveil about yourself (and maybe when you should) can be very helpful. If you’re concerned about how your family might respond or are unsure how to communicate something, consider a drop-in session with a school mental health counselor who might be able to give you some additional tips or help you figure out how to proceed.
-Remember that You are Now an Adult: Adults get to decide what they do and don’t reveal about themselves and when to offer any of it. Be aware that your parents might feel entitled to certain information (especially since they care about you and might also be giving you financial support) so keep this in mind and reveal/impart information accordingly.
Some articles that might help: