College kid coming home? Excitedly anticipating a reunion with his or her high school beau? Despite the large number of high school sweethearts who try to sustain a long-distance relationship at college, the sad, unromantic truth is that most of those relationships end in break-ups. In fact, so many freshman couples split over Thanksgiving weekend, college administrators have actually given the phenomenon a name. They call it the Turkey Drop. Here's why it happens and how parents can help their kids deal.
"Turkey Drop" may sound harsh, but college is a time for change, for meeting new people and developing new interests. Head off into that world with a long-distance relationship, and a new freshman - your child or his sweetheart - may soon feel tied down, unable to fully engage in college life, because they feel guilty having fun with other people. They may simply grow in different directions, or in the midst of three months of long-distance loneliness, find comfort with someone else. Or this split may have been brewing for a long time, but neither party wanted to sever the relationship via instant message. Then comes Thanksgiving and suddenly, they're face to face once more. And the sparks that fly? Well, they're not the good kind.
If your newly returned college freshman finds himself mid-breakup, he may need a little extra support from his family. He may be distraught or irritable. Keep a loving eye on him or her, and cut him a little extra slack. Make yourself available, but don't push. Tell him you understand this is tough. Don't tell him you knew this would never work or enumerate all the ways his boyfriend or girlfriend was ghastly. The "I told you so" approach is neither kind nor helpful, and the "I never liked him/her" tells your child you never trusted his choice - and it backfires spectacularly if the couple reunites.
And finally, realize that if that high school beau was a family favorite, your whole family may feel like you've suffered a loss. Some families manage to remain close to their children's exes, but it can be difficult, particularly in the early stages. Be kind to yourself, as well as your child - and if that involves some Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia for you, as well as your child, that's OK. This too will pass.