Navigating Holiday Breaks

Having a break from classes is great, but often being home (especially if it is the first time since you started college) presents some challenges of its own.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate being home for the holidays:

  1. Have an ‘Elevator Speech’

Most likely you will be with family and friends you don’t see often and at some point you will get the inevitable question: ‘How is school going?’  (…or some iteration of this). Because there is no way to accurately describe all the ways you have grown and changed while on campus, you may be tempted to not even try and give the standard ‘It’s good’. Or perhaps you may feel pressure to share every significant moment of your college life since you arrived on campus (aka the ‘classic over-sharer’). Instead, think about 2-3 good talking points like: your favorite class this semester, an organization you have been involved with, or the most significant thing that happened to you. Thinking about these things ahead of time will allow you to share about your college experience approximately while saving the in-depth conversations for your close community. 

  1. Live Into the Person You are NOW- Not the Person You Were in High School 

College allows you the opportunity to become more independent (hopefully) and to evolve as a person.  Don’t revert back to your old self. You have grown and your family and friends won’t have the opportunity to see that if you just fall back into old habits. It’s hard for them to begin to see you as an adult if you still ask them to wake you up every morning! 

  1. Routine! Routine! Routine! 

The holidays provide a great opportunity to rest, however, if you are not careful you can easily fill your days with binge watching and doomsday scrolling. Create a routine that will help you actually rest (not just sleep). If you have been hitting the gym this semester, make sure to include that in your home-for-the-holidays routine.  Make plans to meet a friend for lunch or coffee each week. Carve out time each day for reading and/or journaling. Whatever you include, creating structure will help maintain any momentum you have gained while in college. 

  1. Don’t Fall Into the Comparison Trap

When you are with your friends from home, hearing about their college experience might make you feel like you have missed out. Maybe this semester you have struggled to find community.  Maybe you didn’t date as much as you thought you would. Maybe you had more questions about your faith than you ever have in your life. It’s hard to honor your own experience when you keep looking around thinking what it ‘should have’ been. Comparison is often the thief of joy and can get us stuck. 

  1.  Remember You Are Not the Only One Who Has Changed

It is important to remember that everyone changes- and that includes your family and your friends from home.  If you want them to acknowledge and honor all the ways you have grown- extend the same grace to them. Don’t get angry if your family doesn’t throw a party upon your return because they had a prior commitment. Over dinner, ask your siblings their thoughts on current events (and then actually listen!). Know that your friends might have developed other interests and might want to do those instead of your ‘usual’ things. Remind yourself that change is not bad…it’s just different. 

Most of all- as you are navigating being home, remember you still have your campus community. Reach out to your college friends over the break. Send a quick text to remind them you are thinking about them and ask them to pray for you. Being in college means your community of support has expanded- and that is still true even when you are not on campus.

Christy Ridings, D.Min., is an Associate University Minister for University Ministries at Belmont University, in the Division for Student Formation. You can email her at christy.ridings@belmont.edu.

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