When “Home For the Holidays” Doesn’t Feel Like A Break: Expectations

For many people, the break between the fall and spring term at school is a welcome chance to rest, recharge, and reconnect with family. However, sometimes it isn’t that simple. Over the next few days, we’d like to provide some suggestions and resources that might help you with common problems that people face year-round, but may find to be especially burdensome during a time when so many people feel pressure to have “perfect” families and family moments.

Not meeting expectations related to work or school:

Ideally, everyone would have great grades while in school, a job that challenges them in a positive way that earns a good living and provides a sense of accomplishment, and a personal life filled with love, friendship, and happiness. Those are all great things to aspire to, and our own personal feelings on these aspirations may be mirrored or felt even more intensely by parents or other family members. However, life sometimes falls short of our dreams– at least temporarily. The good news is that there are ways to accept your “perfect imperfections” while also moving forward in a positive direction.

To work on your grades- Students who are struggling with their grades might find something of value in this item from College Confidential. Their parents might find some useful insight in this piece. If you’ve come to realize that part of why your grades aren’t where you want them to be is related to time management, you might find some things that will help you next semester here, here, and here.

To improve job prospects- Generally speaking, the job market is tough– and recent graduates are often especially vulnerable to challenges in finding jobs. Something that may be a good thing for students and other job seekers to consider is making a profile on a career-related site like LinkedIn. Students also usually have access to Career Services offices on campus, which often provide assistance and training for job-seekers. For people who aren’t currently enrolled in school, you may be able to find some valuable information by contacting your state’s Department of Labor or a similar office.

To expand and enhance relationships- For people who are having a hard time connecting with others (for friendship or dating), sometimes it helps to find common activities or interests. Students can check in with their student activities office to see if there are any organizations that involve their interests (these are often affiliated with the Student Affairs division). Just about anyone with a computer and internet access can use a site like Meetup to find people with similar interests (or in similar situations). In fact, sometimes, you can even do double-duty, because there are often groups for singles interested in specific topics or activities (e.g., single salsa dancers, single Wii U fans, single hiking fans). You may feel like you are the only person at your school or in your town who likes (fill in the blank with your favorite thing here), but you probably aren’t. Go find your people!

To improve your overall outlook– Even if your life is never quite perfect, you can be a happy person with a great life. Feeling and expressing gratitude for others can have a very positive impact on your mood– and may even give you the boost you need to achieve in areas of your life that are currently giving you challenges. Being generous can also provide similar benefits, while also giving others a chance to reap the benefits of feeling gratitude towards you! By focusing your thoughts and feelings on kindness, appreciation, and reciprocity– and encouraging those thoughts and feelings in others– you can turn what could be a stressful time of shame and blame into the start of a brighter future.

So, those are just a few things to get started… What advice would you give someone who was struggling under the weight of expectations they didn’t feel like they were meeting?

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