How to Prepare for Your Son’s First Holiday Visit from College

Prepare yourself.  If your son will soon coming home for his first holiday visit from college, things will be different. HE will be different. Some of the visit will be challenging. But mostly it will be different in a good way! Nonetheless, you need to prepare that this is not family business as usual.

Be Prepared for the Challenges

1. You can all but forget about enforcing a curfew. He has managed on his own for a few months. Hopefully he is doing well in school and has made mostly good decisions. College kids are accustomed to staying up until 2:00 a.m. nightly, perhaps even later on the weekends. It’s a fact. Expect major backlash if you suggest a midnight curfew while he’s on break. When faced with this dilemma, Tom and I decided to trust our kids. They had given us no reason whatsoever not to trust them. So TRUST, we did! It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but it all worked out. Our boys were sensible, and they always were respectful about giving us an ETA. The giving of an ETA is the ideal compromise. You know what to expect. They know to text if the ETA changes. Peace and calm in the house!

2. While they want the privilege to stay out as late as they want, they will still expect the privilege of your doing the piles of laundry they brought home. Bags and bags FULL of laundry! If you have a servant’s heart, this may not be a problem. I have to WORK at having a servant’s heart, so I felt compromise was again in order. I asked that they at least sort their laundry. I then succumbed to washing and folding. It all worked.

first holiday visit from college

My son’s laundry pile today. It will multiply ten fold before he arrives home in December!

3. Set up a few ground rules that are important to you. When my sweet, sweet eldest would arrive home, within minutes his laptop was on the kitchen island, where it would stay plugged in for days, and his gaming system would be set up in our living room. All of this could have been in his room, but he wanted to be with us. And we wanted to be with him, too! So the compromise was that each night it would all be removed from the living room and kitchen. This didn’t always happen, and it drove me a bit crazy. Just sayin. It’s why you need to be prepared.

Another ground rule to discuss is kitchen cleanliness. I’m not a neat freak, but I do like my kitchen to be reasonably clean. Dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Food put away. The kind of things that simply aren’t a priority to a male college student. Setting and agreeing upon ground rules about the kitchen upon his arrival is certain to help prevent major frustration for you!

first holiday visit from college

This image is c/o my adorable second born son. This is his kitchen today at his home in college. I don’t ever want my sink to look like this. 🙂

4. Forget a few things you and your spouse have been enjoying. Perhaps you’ve cleansed the house of junk food and are eating a healthy diet. Get ready for the Twinkies, Doritoes and Oreos to repopulate in your pantry. And the toilet seat? Prepare to see it predominantly UP.  Your spot in the driveway? Taken. Your car will be on the street. None of these things is horrible. You just need to know about them in advance.

Be Prepared for the Best

5. Expect a different kind of conversation. In fact, if you have boys, expect to FINALLY have conversation! This is so cool. You are now dealing with an (almost) adult! He will have grown up way more than you could have imagined during the past three or four months. He will want to discuss what he is learning. What he believes in. His opinions. For us, this marked a change in our relationship with our children from childhood to adulthood. It’s one of the seasons we have cherished most! One caveat: if you choose to discuss the gaming system in the living room DURING one of these conversations, the conversation will abruptly end. And that’s no good for anyone. So choose your timing carefully!

6. Take the time to intentionally instill values. Your relationship will be different… and for the better. Just as you respect the leaps and bounds of maturity he has made, your young-adult child will be more willing to listen and respect your wisdom. More than ever before! This can lead to great conversations about values, traditions and priorities. It’s also a great time to hear about his thoughts. Ask questions. Sit back and just listen. Be slow to speak or criticize. You’re going to love this part of the holidays!

7. Expect the unexpected. There will always be something you didn’t quite expect. This year will be the LAST year we have a son come home from college during the holidays. Son number two graduates and gets married in May! The unexpected surprise this year? He’s bringing home our new grand-dog. Grand prairie dog, that is!

first holiday visit from college

Chuck the prairie dog.

Yes, Trevor will be bringing his new pal Chuck the prairie dog. A rodent. Trevor says we will fall in love with Chuck. Maybe so, but we have two terriers that have hunting rodents in their blood. Should be interesting!

first holiday visit from college

Have you had boys come home for holidays from college? I would love to hear what you would add to the list in the comments below!


Andrea Tabler |


Andrea Tabler


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  1. Laurie Sotro says:

    Andrea, Great post, great advice! I had a daughter that came home from college for the holidays. Needless to say girls are different, but we dealt with the exact same issues you’re advising on here…minus the prairie dog though! 😉

  2. This is really helpful, oh my, my son is 15 and I KNOW this experience is not far off. I am going to try to remember all of this. Wow, motherhood never gets easier, does it???

  3. I love this post!!! Great tips my friend xo

  4. Hey there! I know thnis iis kinda offf topic but I was wondering
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  1. […] You can also get inspiration about the empty nest from my post here, learn how to transition to the empty nest here, and prepare for your son’s first visit home here! […]