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Soon your home will be filled with Christmas joy, the kids will return from school and mom and dad will be thrilled to have a home filled with family activities. As the parents of three Zags (’08,’10,’13) we have always looked forward to having the kids home during the holiday season. Yes, in some respects while they’ve been gone, it’s been nice to not worry about how much food is in the fridge, what time the kids are due home from a party, the extra loads of laundry, etc….  However, we still truly enjoy having them home. Each of us has our own vision and expectation of what the ideal Holiday Season should be. Our hope is that through our experiences you may gain a realistic expectation of how this time may be interpreted by your Zag, and simple steps you can take to avoid any disappointment.

For many of you, your ZAG has not returned home since that tearful August day when you left their dorm room with a final, I LOVE YOU! Well, they have managed to make friends, participate in “outside” activities and have now probably decided that STUDYING needs a little more attention. As parents, we anticipate the arrival of the same child we left standing in that dorm room with the newly added excitement of returning home ready to spend time with the family. This is where the disappointment can begin….

Reminiscing back to November 2004, we remember driving to the airport with great anticipation to welcome our daughter home. We knew it was going to be a fantastic 4 days just like all of the past Thanksgivings, right? Well, suffice to say, I think we saw her for Thanksgiving dinner and that was it! Little did we know, prior to coming home she had already scheduled visits to see all of her friends over the course of those four days, and literally was squeezing in the family stuff…and yes, she left with the car as soon as we arrived home at 10 pm that evening. Don’t get us wrong, she was excited to be home, she was ecstatic to see us, she had a blast, but we were deflated. Didn’t she come home to see us? Weren’t we more important than her friends? The answers were a resounding “Yes”, yet she hadn’t seen her friends since August either and she “knew we’d understand.” Even her younger siblings felt a bit jaded. The weekend was a whirlwind, and as she left for the return flight to GU we looked at each other and sighed, “guess we’ll have to wait until Christmas break.”

As parents, “letting go” is one of the most difficult things to do; but we know that for the child to grow we must allow them to make choices on their own; after all…college is all about the student and not the parent. Yes, we agree, but not when they return home!  Here is what we did to help our student make BETTER choices:

  1. December 1, e-mail a kind note to your Zag with a December family Calendar where all the family events are clearly stated with times
  2. Communicate your expectations of “curfew”. Remember your ZAG comes and goes as they please at GU.
  3. Invite your Zag to have friends over to your home. This is a great way to hear a few more stories about the last 3 months.
  4. Let your Zag know how much their siblings are looking forward to spending time with him/her.
  5. Make sure to allow time for them to see their friends.

The key to “A Merry Little Christmas” is COMMUNICATION! If we as parents do not communicate our expectations to our ZAG, our disappointment will not be with our Zag but with ourselves.

As always, planning is everything.  Hopefully, these suggestions will help make Holiday time home with your Zag everything you expect it to be.

Tom and Elaine Bigley, National Chairs, Gonzaga Parent and Family Council




  1. I remember my first Thanks Giving while away at New Mexico State in the dark ages of the past…I wasn’t able to go home as home was in Anchorage AK…but Christmas was a different story and I was glad to go home and share my experiences with my brothers and sisters (being the oldest of 8)….as well as my parents.
    I like the check list and the timing as we parents need to remind our children we are still important in their lives. (Besides being their source of money :))..
    While I won’t get to spend Thanks Giving with my Zag Freshman as he’ll be at his Mother’s, I still will be thankful for his health, grades, and overall postive enthusasim he demonstrates everyday!
    Have a blessed Thanks Giving…
    Ron Mitchell
    Reno, NV

  2. Thank you, Tom and Elaine, for sharing your experience and for offering my wife and I suggestions to help us when Jennifer comes home tomorrow for Thanksgiving.

    We will use your 5-step plan to help Jennifer make BETTER choices when she returns home for the Christmas break.

    We agree…COMMUNICATION is the key to minimize mutual disappointments.

    We wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving Day and weekend!