Thanksgiving is the first real break of the school year and, as such, a highly anticipated holiday.
After weeks of being apart, parents look forward to reuniting with their young scholars to hear all about their life on campus. In reality, many students won’t make it home for the long weekend. The reasons for this can vary widely; students need additional study time, are tight on funds or have decided to volunteer on campus instead. Some may even be joining a friend’s family for their Thanksgiving Dinner.
Whatever the reason for their absence, know that all is not lost. Not having your college-attending child home for Thanksgiving can stir up a lot of deep and uncomfortable emotions. Know that these feelings don’t have to ruin your holiday weekend.
Remember, the true spirit of Thanksgiving is all about fostering gratitude - for the people we love and for what we have in the present. There are always ways to feel more connected with your child and ease the pangs of absence. We’ve also got a few creative ideas to spark more joy and fun around this holiday weekend - even if certain loved ones won’t be there.
Coping with empty-nester syndrome over Thanksgiving
Outside, the leaves have started turning - the lush greens of summer fade into beautiful reds, yellows, and oranges. The air is a little crisper, and you can begin to see your breath on those long fall walks. Winter is on its way, and with it, the busy holiday season just around the bend. But this year’s a little different. There aren’t any more early school runs or soccer practices. And the house is much quieter. That young person who you spent a reasonable amount of time guiding and mentoring is now off on their own adventure.
No matter how busy they are, every parent will experience the loneliness that comes with a child going off to college. All parents, regardless as to what they’ve pursued in life from a career perspective, have all engaged in the same meaningful and life-affirming job of bringing up a new generation in this world. Once that job is done, it can feel like a void has been left in its place.
So, what can you do to make things feel a little more normal? Accepting and validating the tough emotions you are feeling is the first step. It’s not easy letting go of someone you spent most of your time with. Taking care of yourself - your emotional needs - comes next. Making sure that you give yourself the time to process these deeper emotions and recover from their absence is essential.
While a beautiful, joyful holiday, Thanksgiving weekend can stir up a lot of these sentiments anew. If you feel like you are grappling with these, remember that there are a few small things you can do to make yourself feel much better:
- Open up to a trusted friend or family member about these feelings
- Take some time off to care for yourself - you deserve some pampering!
- Take up a hobby that’s fun, relaxing, and that will take your mind off things
- Get out of the house and spend a little more time with friends
Another way to look at this is to realize how much more time you now have. Time that you can use to do things you’ve been putting off for ages. Go travelling, write a book, start a blog, learn to play an instrument, take up a new sport, begin volunteering, renovate or redesign your house or make a career change; the list goes on! There are so many exciting things you could get up to - it’s all in how you reframe this new chapter of your life.
Here are a few more thoughts for making the most of your time without your favorite student this Thanksgiving.
Remember, the holiday season is just around the corner...
Perspective is a wonderful antidote. The long winter break is only a few weeks away, so if your child can’t make it home now, remember that they’ve got a much longer holiday to look forward to in just a few weeks That will offer plenty of time for you to catch up with them and for them to spend time with old friends and family.
Ask how they’re really feeling
If you’re feeling guilty or worrying about how your student may be feeling, it’s worth simply asking them how they actually feel. It may be that they’re a little sad about not being able to come home but that they’re looking forward to a quiet break on their own. They may even appreciate the additional time to catch up on their studies or have some much deserved ‘me time’ (complete with soothing self-care).
And, don’t forget their siblings (if they have any)
If you have other children, it’s important to check in with them too. How might they be feeling about not having their sibling home with them? It may be that they are wrestling with their own difficult emotions. In some ways, they may also be feeling the weight of being more present for you in this situation. Don’t forget to spend a few minutes to get a sense of what may be going on for them. Together, you can then work towards making this Thanksgiving a fun and happy and memorable weekend.
Some tips for feeling more connected
If it turns out your young college attender is, in fact, incredibly homesick here’s what you could do.
Send them a Thanksgiving care package
If they can’t come home over Thanksgiving weekend, a care package could be the next best thing. Fill a large box with goodies that will remind them of home: some of their favorite foods, home-baked goods, a funny card, a great read…even or an adult coloring book could go down well! Gift certificates for the movies or a local restaurant are also a great addition they can share with on-campus friends over the long weekend.
Come up with a communication plan
You can still stay in touch with them over Thanksgiving weekend - you just need to agree on the best way to do this. Some ways of doing so are more personal [link to: Talsam product landing page] than others. What’s important is to find out what makes them feel most comfortable. Will they appreciate a great big ‘everyone-at-the-table’ Facetime or Skype call? Or, would they prefer some more lowkey private calls and messages from family members?
Make a surprise visit to their campus
If you’ve got the time, nothing is stopping you from taking Thanksgiving to them. Even better - make your visit to campus a surprise. It will be a moment that you can cherish in years to come. Once there, have your proud young scholar give you a tour of their dorms and the grounds (most campuses are beautiful around fall time). You can then spend time together preparing a Thanksgiving feast. While their apartment or campus kitchen may not be as familiar as the one you have at home, the act of cooking and spending time together is what counts. Alternatively, you could book dinner at a local restaurant. And, why not invite a few of their on-campus friends to join?
So there you go - with a little creativity and imagination, you can still make Thanksgiving memorable even if your favorite student won’t be coming home. You can look at it from a different perspective, find other ways to show them how you care, even bring Thanksgiving to them!
Most importantly, you can start taking this time to do things just for you, from showing yourself a little more care to beginning to work on your own dreams and aspirations for the future.
Last but not least, treat yourself to something special...
If you and your college-attender are finding it challenging to stay connected over the distance, then find out more about what we created here at Talsam.