How Were Your College Kids Over Thanksgiving?

“I want a redo.”

Also Read: Tips for Staying Healthy in College

Two of my kids are in college now, and even with three still at home, the house feels so empty. I was giddy they were coming back, sleeping in their own beds, and I was planning all these moments to catch up with them. If you can relate, and you haven’t seen this Saturday Night Live skit, watch it now, as long as you are in a place you can laugh out loud. Now, they are back at school, and I’m realizing between the socializing and the holiday chaos, I barely had enough time with them. I want a redo, and I want it without leftovers on the counter, without a hangover, and without distraction. I want to ask questions and really listen to the answers. Our young people are struggling in ever increasing numbers and regardless of who or what you want to blame, many of them need our help. Being the grown up isn’t always fun, especially when our own stress level is at an all time high, but it is time, as parents, as community members and as compassionate people, we pay attention.

If, like me, you missed your opportunity, here are some tips on how to identify potential mental health problems, and some tips for helping prevent those that may arise. Over the winter break:

  • Ask open-ended questions and listen to the answers.
  • If this doesn’t spark conversation, ask more specific questions, and really listen to the answers.
  • Pay attention to changing behaviors and new habits.
  • Don’t be afraid to address the things worrying you directly (yes, they are adulting now … ish, but we still have rights)
  • Encourage healthy routines that include physical activity and adequate sleep
  • Stock the kitchen with nutritious foods and limit the junk (or encourage them to do this at school)
  • Plan time together over the break, even if you have to insist
  • Show empathy toward what they are going through (yes, even if no one did that for you in college)

Most of our kids missed over a year of learning, socializing and experiencing during the pandemic. There was a failure to launch epidemic even before there was a global pandemic, and now, not surprisingly, based on the research, things are worse. I hope my kids and your kids (and you and me for that matter) are going to be alright, but hope is not a strategy. Some schools are trying, some aren’t doing enough, and many are overwhelmed with the need. As nice as it would be to assume they are in good hands, reality demands our vigilance. If we think we are really seeing them by checking their social media accounts, or you are involved in their lives because you are tracking a dot on your phone, we need to take time to rethink. We don’t know what we don’t know. Create time to get curious, have an honest check in, and don’t shy away from the hard conversation.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness Coach. She helps clients with parenting issues, the challenges of college and young adulthood and issues related to health and habits. Email her at to learn more. She is the author of the Audible Original, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents.


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