Fall Conversation Series- Transitioning Home with your Student

Navigating the Winter Break with family members can be stressful for many of our students after having been away from home or family members for several months attending CSU. Students have spent the fall semester learning and growing through their academic courses, building new friendships and exploring their own passions, identities and much more. This year the transition to Winter Break is particularly unique since many of our families and students will be spending an extended time period together. Since Fall Break (Mid-November) many students have been home and with remote learning taking place for the final weeks of the semester, the time together for students and families is significantly longer than ever before. As students transition back home or as our families transition to having your student back at home, we want to share a few helpful resources.


As a starting place, we have found the following article by the New York Times to be a helpful guide to begin thinking about this transition. College Students Extended Break at Home

The following tips have been helpful for our parents and families as well in navigating a student’s return home for extended breaks.

  • Emotions may be showing up at different levels than before. In particular, with the global pandemic, college students will likely be returning home with new levels of stress, anxiety, uncertainty, etc. Recognizing that student’s emotions might not be where they were in August can be a helpful first step to living together again under one roof.
  • Family roles might have shifted and it could take some time and conversation to once again establish each family member’s role while living together again. For example, students often feel new independence or personal control after being at college or university and they can feel challenged by receiving parent or family guidance once again.
  • Recognizing independence and the new levels of independence is often key to support college students in their extended return home. Families might need to re-visit rules, expectations and assumptions during this transition from university to home as many students have been away from such rules or expectations from family during the past few months.
  • Communication is key. While some families communicate with their students every day while they are away on campus, for some families, the communication decreased while the student was away. Now, during an extended break, communication increases and it is helpful to communicate each family member’s thoughts and feelings during the break period.
  • Remember the Transition Model. Parent and Family Programs often shares the Transition Model by William Bridges as a tool for transitions among families, parents and college students. The model contains three stages that can be experienced at any time for any amount of time during any large life transition. William Bridges says it is important for us to go through all three stages in order to have a successful transition. You and your student might be experiencing the following during the extended break.

Endings: Transition starts with an ending. This is paradoxical but true. This first phase of transition begins when people identify what they are losing and learn how to manage these losses. They determine what is over and being left behind, and what they will keep. These may include relationships, processes, team members or locations.

Neutral Zone: The second step of transition comes after letting go: the neutral zone. People go through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. It is when the critical psychological realignments and repatternings take place. It is the very core of the transition process. This is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. People are creating new processes and learning what their new roles will be. They are in flux and may feel confusion and distress. The neutral zone is the seedbed for new beginnings.

New Beginnings: Beginnings involve new understandings, values and attitudes. Beginnings are marked by a release of energy in a new direction – they are an expression of a fresh identity. Well-managed transitions allow people to establish new roles with an understanding of their purpose, the part they play, and how to contribute and participate most effectively. As a result, they feel reoriented and renewed.

Author: William Bridges

Book: Managing transitions: Making the most of change (2nd ed.), 2003


We also want to specifically point out that spending time at home and navigating family members can be particularly challenging for LGBTQIA+ people during the longer winter break period. Especially when an LGBTQIA+ student might feel like they have to educate their friend or family community on their unique identities or when folx don’t fully understand their identities. CSU’s PRIDE Resource Center has created free to download informational Family & Parent Guides with information on Gender & Pronouns and Sexual & Romantic Orientation. The guides are available in both Spanish and English via the links below.

Parent and Family Guide to Gender Pronouns (English)

Parent and Family Guide to Gender Pronouns (Spanish)

Parent and Family Guide to Sexual Emotional Attraction (English)

Parent and Family Guide to Sexual Emotional Attraction (Spanish)