How to Stay Merry and Bright When College Kids are Back!

Keep it Real When Your College Kids Come Home for the Holidays

When we kiss our clean-shaven young men and flouncy pony-tailed young women goodbye in September as they start college, we have high hopes. We hope they find good friends. We hope they excel in their sports or academics. We hope all our teaching guides their way. We hope they become empowered to follow their dreams and develop them into realities.

But three months later when our college kids come home for the holidays, we might see something completely different.

Our once clean-shaven clean cut-looking high schooler has grown out his hair and is sporting a beard. Our once bright-eyed and enthusiastic student council member has traded late night McDonald’s milkshake and fries runs into Miller-Light all-nighters.

And although natural exploration is expected from our young adults, “adulting” in such a manner over the holidays in our homes can be stressful on the family.

Three Tips To Keep Things Merry and Bright

1. Communicate … about alcohol

Drinking at college is viewed by students as part of the greater college experience. Almost a ritual – a rite-of-passage. And when our college kids come home for the holidays, no doubt he/she will have brought alcohol-drinking tendencies along.  It’s important for parents to understand these realities and be proactive in communicating concerns with your child.

Let your child know you are concerned about the dangers of drinking and the dangers of underage drinking, especially as it pertains to underage friends who may come to your house and drink over the holidays.  Make sure your child understands the consequences and liabilities you as a parent will suffer if underage drinking goes awry from a party at your home.

Communicate your concerns to your child in an honest and straightforward manner. Don’t expect your child to “just know.” Having a heart-to-heart will allow your child to understand your concerns in a like-minded heart-felt way which will hopefully give rise to his/her own personal accountability.

2. Allow Chill Time

More than likely our college kids are coming home having just finished mid-terms, papers and, if a college athlete, training till physical exhaustion. More than likely our returning college student is drained and walking through our doors having just experienced extreme stress. Try to recognize this situation and allow your college student time to “chill,” recover and rejuvenate.

Maybe it’s video games they like, or perhaps it’s a game of basketball with their old team-mates, maybe it’s a long nap, or maybe it’s just shopping with old friends.  However it is that your college student relieves his/her stress, don’t only allow this time, but encourage it!

Encourage time to be free from the stress of academia. Time to be free from excessive responsibilities and pressures. Time to just “chill.”

3. Keep Cupboards Stocked

A visit home is not the time to get your child into healthy eating habits. Instead, stick to the foods he/she loves. And have plenty of it! An abundance of comfort foods will help keep the “hangry” college student at bay.


Holidays are meant to be a time of celebration and a time to enjoy and appreciate family and friends. Sometimes, however, the stress of college life can become overwhelming and filter into the family setting. But with a little communication, chill time and good food, our kids usually come around. However, sometimes our kids need more attention than what we can naturally offer as parents. Sometimes the intense mood swings or overindulgence of alcohol are an indication of a deeper problem.

Water Gap Wellness is a Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment Facility with a housing option for individuals 18 years and older. Treatment can last one week, one month or longer. Licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and the Drug and Alcohol Programs of Pennsylvania Water Gap Wellness received the prestigious Gold Seal from the Joint Commission recognizing excellence in clinical programming and client/staff safety. The programs at Water Gap Wellness are designed to treat the whole person – not just a diagnosis.

If your college student is experiencing extreme alcoholic tendencies or mental health instabilities that are unmanageable with parenting interventions, please reach out to us. Give us a call – our friendly admissions counselors are available 24/7 to help 1-833-949-4673. Or you can also take a moment to fill out this quick form form to verify the insurance for your son/daughter.  We will return your inquiry within one hour.

Best wishes to everyone for a safe holiday season.

Your friends at Water Gap Wellness

About WGWC

Water Gap Wellness Center offers expert and compassionate treatment for mental health and substance abuse at our Pennsylvania facility, just outside New Jersey, a short drive from New York. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you today. 

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