The Ultimate Guide to Living Peacefully With Your Teen College Student This Winter Break

Updated: January 6, 2020
If your teen has been away at college, they may have been experiencing a level of independence and freedom that can make coming home again challenging, no matter how happy they are to see you. Here are our top tips for living peacefully with your college teen this winter break.
teen playing video games over winter break from college

Is your college teen coming home for winter break? If so, you probably feel a gamut of emotions ranging from excitement to see your baby to anxiety about how dynamics might feel different. 

More: 6 Life Skills Every Teen Should Master Before College

It’s a joyous occasion to have your child home again, but the parent and child dynamics of the past will certainly feel changed. Your teen has been experiencing a level of independence and freedom that can make coming home again challenging, no matter how happy they are to see you. Fortunately, with a bit of intention and consideration, you can absolutely still set boundaries and rules and live peacefully together during this winter break.

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Be honest and open with your teen

mom talking to teen college student about rules during winter break

The first step to peaceful living during winter break is to have an honest and open conversation with your teen about how you feel and what your hopes are for winter break. Taking the time to let your teen know how much you’ve missed them and how thrilled you are to have them home again is important. Whether teens admit it or not, they will appreciate knowing that they have been missed.

You can also let your teen know that although the rules of the house have evolved since their time at home in high school, there will still be rules that need to be followed for things to feel fair to everyone in the household. Topics to consider for this conversation include the use of cars, when you expect them to be present for family time, how things will be paid for, what you would like their help with around the house, and curfews.

Make plans for the whole family in advance

family outing with teen college student over winter break

As much as your college teen will be happy to see you during winter break, they will also be looking forward to catching up with their friends from home too. If you are hoping to spend quality time together as a family, then you should prioritize letting your teen know exactly when that family time will be. If your teen is not aware of the schedule you hope for, she can easily fill that time with plans with friends.

Talk to your teen in advance of winter break, or at the very least, right at the start of the break. Provide her with some choices for scheduled quality time for the family and plan when those things will happen together. Family plans can be as simple as watching a sports game on TV all together or taking a nature walk. If it’s possible to fit in one to two special outings, you can plan that together too. Visiting a favorite restaurant, seeing a show, or taking a day trip can give everyone something to look forward to and you are honoring your teen’s newfound independence by being respectful of her schedule and including her in the making of plans.

Make your house a teen-friendly hang out

teens hanging out at home during college winter break

Just because your college teen wants to hang out with her friends or significant other, it doesn’t mean they can’t all be at home with you. Make sure your teen knows that not only are her friends welcome at the house, but that you hope she will invite friends over. Providing your teen with easy options for socializing at home is a win-win situation for everyone.

Offering to have friends over for dinner, inviting people to your home to watch a sports game or movie, or hosting a fun game night can be fun for everyone. You can respect your teen’s desire to hang out with friends and spend time with her all at once without seeing this as an either/or situation.

Talk to your teen about winter break responsibilities

teen working at coffee shop during college winter break

Although some college teens may be looking towards winter break as simply a vacation from responsibility, as parents, we know that maintaining some structure and responsibility is important for teens. If your teen previously worked a part-time job locally before going away to college, check in to see if your child has reached out to her previous employer to pick up some shifts while she is home. This is important for your teen to be financially responsible and also a helpful way for her to have some much needed routine during break.

If it’s not possible for your teen to work during the break, take the time to research some volunteer opportunities. Volunteering as a family is a wonderful way to kill two birds with one stone and spend quality family time with your teen as well as providing her with some structure and responsibility during break. This can also be an opportunity for your teen to invite friends to join her while giving her a positive space to get in some socializing time. Shoveling snow or yard clean up for older neighbors, stocking shelves at the local food pantry, or visiting a senior center nearby are typically easy ways to jump into a temporary volunteer assignment.

Give your teen a few household assignments

teen doing laundry during college winter break

Providing your college teen with a few household assignments for winter break will help to keep her busy, to give her a way to contribute to the family, and to keep her out of trouble. This is especially helpful for the times when you may be out of the house and at work yourself. Projects like going through closets to donate old clothes and belongings and cleaning out spaces in the home like the attic, basement, or garage are all good ideas. This kind of work takes time and will keep your teen active. It’s also a huge help to the entire family. For teens who don’t have work outside the home lined up for winter break, this is a great way for them to earn some spending money as well.

With a small amount of planning, open communication, an agreed upon schedule, and a bit of structure, you can look forward to making the most of your college teen’s time at home with your family during winter break. As you respect your teen’s newfound independence, she will respect your efforts to provide her with a happy and healthy winter break. 

Looking for some comic relief? Check out these 10 Gifs That Sum Up Life With a Teen.