Buddy System

Understanding men and their friendships.

College Freshmen Heading Home for Thanksgiving

Makes sure you don't make your holiday a turkey

If you are a college freshmen returning home for your first Thanksgiving Holiday, here are five tips (you can share them with your parent(s) also):

1. Talk about expectations for family togetherness—are you and your family expecting that you will behave as you did when you were still in high school even though for the past three months you have been a "free man in Paris, unfettered and alive?" (Joni Mitchell line, not mine). Find out what the plans are before you arrive—are you expected to be home for the Thursday dinner? What about other dinners? Are you still going to visit a grandparent, help serve lunch at a soup kithcen, play touch football, etc.?

2. Talk about rules in advance—what time is it okay to come and go? You are accustomed to being awake at 2 in the morning in your dorm and sleeping until your first class at noon—will that sleep schedule work at home? Are you expected to clean up as you have in the past? Are there new rules now that you are older?

3. Presenting who you are now - you are going to be asked a lot of questions about college. You have changed and may be dressing differently, shaving less or more, growing thinner or heavier. People WILL comment on your appearance if it is different (and even if it is not different).  Anticipate the comments and the questions. If you are struggling, have a ready answer at hand so these encounters are not uncomfortable.

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4. Your family members have changed, too—it is not only you that has grown—your parents and  siblings may have changed also. They may have started new activities or jobs. They may have invaded your space by moving stuff into your closets and turning your room into an office. One of your parents may use your room as a spare bedroom if they have trouble sleeping.  Change is inevitable. Be open to it and game plan how you are going to deal with it.

5. Take a deep breath—some changes cannot be predicted and, in fact, your coming home may not be that big a deal after all.  Use humor and allow others to enjoy your presence by being gracious...and then start thinking about how you will get through the longer holiday, Christmas.

Geoffrey Greif, Ph.D., is a Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships.

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