Home for the Holidays?

5 tips to get you through it

Heading back home for winter break can mean a lot of great things: relaxing nights watching cheesy Christmas movies, or fun days making gingerbread houses with your relatives. But that’s not all. 

Being back at home for three whole weeks also means getting some tough questions from your parents and relatives. Things can get awkward. You’ll probably hear the regular barrage of questions: How are your grades? Are you sure about your major? Are you planning to do a masters? A PhD? And when you’re an arts major like me, there will definitely be questions about what “real job” you can get with a Bachelor of Arts.  

That’s on top of all the questions you’ll get about your love life. Any cute boys at school? Have you started dating yet? Who’s that you were just texting? 

There’s never an easy answer to these questions. It can take years for students to decide what they want to major in, and what they wish to do with their lives after graduating.  

And how can you tell grandma that the boy you’re texting is someone you met on Tinder? 

Tip 1: Not so obvious avoidance 

“You can’t really avoid it,” says Gabrielle Geneau a student from New Brunswick. “If somebody asks you [annoying questions] … just say really short answers so they can stop pestering you about it.” 

Another student, Wesley Giffen, says he recommends spending time in places other than home to avoid those awkward school-related conversations. He does this by catching up with high school friends who are also in university.  

“It’s different when somebody who’s in university now asks you that kind of stuff,” Giffen says, “because then they can relate.” 

Tip 2: Show don’t tell 

Another concern many parents or guardians have is about your work ethic. They might ask you if you’re actually getting anything done at school. That’s a real concern for Avery Cole, a student who is from Nova Scotia but whose family lives far away from Halifax. 

“They don’t think that I’m ever in class,” says Cole. 

So, whenever he is home, Cole uses this trick to let his parents know that he is actually getting work done: “I try to do my work in front of them. Instead of doing it in my room, I’ll do it on the kitchen table, just so they won’t bother me about it.” 

Tip 3: Obvious avoidance 

When dealing with love life questions, there are a few tricks that may work under the right conditions. If you’re getting questioned about dating during dinner, try constantly stuffing food into your mouth so you don’t have time to speak.  

For a more long-term solution, change the topic of conversation to something stupid one of your siblings did (if you’re feeling particularly evil).  

In a worst-case scenario, just talk about politics.  

Tip 4: Just be honest 

As much as you can try to avoid your family’s questions, at a certain point, you just have to face them. And I recommend just telling them the truth. 

Tell them if you’re marks aren’t the best. Tell them if you’re thinking about switching majors. Tell them if you just started dating this guy you’ve only met twice in person.  

Yes, it may cause a shitstorm of anger and more inquiry, especially if you’re talking to the people paying for your education (‘Do you know how much it costs for us to send you away? What happened to wanting a chemistry degree?’).  

But the people around you should want you to get the best out of your university experience. They should be there to support you and your decisions, and the only way they can do that is if you’re honest with them. 

Tip 5: Relax 

However you decide to spend your break, know that the most important thing is that you relax.  

Unless you’re writing a thesis, winter break is the only time in a full school year where you don’t have any work to do for classes. One semester has just finished, and another is on the way. If you want to get a head start on readings, go for it, but in my experience, that never works out. 

I take winter break as a time to do all the things I never have time for during the semester. I read books that have been sitting on my desk for months, waiting to be read simply for pleasure. I watch everything that’s been sitting on my watch list for weeks and I enjoy it. I pick up my pencil and paintbrush again and make art for hours. 

Take this time to not think about school if you can, because another semester of stress will be here before you know it.   

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Tarini Fernando

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