Changing Family Dynamics and Tips for a Successful Fall Break

Back to Parent and Family Updates

With fall break nearly upon us, students are talking about enjoying in-person connections, the beautiful autumn weather, daunting upcoming midterms, and looking forward to the long weekend. Whether fall break means returning home for a few days, or staying on campus, it’s a great time to take inventory, recharge, and prepare for the next chunk of the semester.

If your student is returning home for the long weekend:

  • Remember that they have been away from home for a while now. Don’t expect them to easily fall back into previous household rules like curfews, chores, etc. — even though these may still be important to you. Discuss your expectations in advance and listen to the interests of your student to determine if a new set of expectations may be best for everybody.
  • Talk to your student about their college experience. Attempt to listen without judgement; they are more likely to tell you more, unfiltered, if they believe you care and you are not going to tell them what to do. If they want your opinion, certainly give it. The more you can treat them like adults, the more they will develop to be independent thinkers who can make important decisions.
  • Let your student sleep in and rest. They may not even realize how tired they are before returning home. The first part of the semester and the adjustment to being on campus can take a toll on everybody’s energy. There is a lot to do at Colgate, and the stimulation of it all can be exhausting. Expect that your student will need to rest. 
  • If your student’s high school friends are home at the same time, they are likely to make plans. Don’t try to schedule all of their time while they are home. Peers are very important to college students and they have likely been trying to stay in touch virtually. Give them some time to reunite with their old friends.

If your student is planning to stay on campus over fall break, this is normal, too. Many students use this time to catch up on assignments, find a few extra hours to rest, and visit a nearby pumpkin patch. You may want to encourage your student to get off campus, even if it is just into the village of Hamilton, to have a nice meal. The weather is often beautiful in upstate New York this time of the year and it is a great chance to take advantage of it before winter sets in. 

Encourage your student to find a time to talk with you by phone or Facetime to catch up if they have some down time. Whether they are at home or at school, check in with them about the choices they are making and encourage them to prioritize their wellness. Making healthy choices now will pay off later in the semester. 

— LaFrance is associate vice president of counseling and psychological services.