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Even teens who enjoy time with extended family may already be dreading the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s because they know that aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents are inevitably going to bring up an anxiety-inducing topic: their college plans.

Thanksgiving comes at a tricky time for college-bound seniors, who, more than likely, are awaiting admissions decisions from most of the schools to which they applied. Certainly, some early-action applicants may have acceptances that excite them, but technically, it’s still many months before seniors need to make their decisions, and most aren’t ready to commit this soon.

If the dinner conversation turns toward college talk, here are some ways to support your student:

Talk about it ahead of time.

With sincere empathy, remind your student that people are inevitably going to ask about college. Try to get a sense of how they feel about this. Some kids may be excited to talk about it, and that’s great. For those who aren’t, let them know that you support their inclination to demur, but that you do expect them to be polite, no matter how annoyed they may feel. Help them plan ahead so they can be ready with a general response. Something like, “I’m excited to be done (or almost done) with my applications, and think I’ll have some good options,” is all they need to say, before perhaps asking the inquirer a question that will deftly change the subject.

Be prepared to come to the rescue.

If someone isn’t taking your teen’s hint that she doesn’t want to talk about this right now, be ready to make a save. Ask your teen or the inquisitor for help in the kitchen or with clearing plates, or join the conversation and move them away from the topic.

Don’t answer for them.

If college comes up, don’t start talking as if you are the student. They may be wrestling with a decision that they haven’t yet communicated to you, or feel embarrassed that you are the one talking about what is supposed to be their decision and journey.

Don’t bring it up yourself.

You may be feeling all kinds of college-related anxiety yourself, and feel like you need to unload about the process, the cost, the fact that you were tearing out your hair from worry while junior waited until the 11th hour to submit applications. Process all that with a friend, spouse or therapist before or after the Thanksgiving gathering. This is not the time to make it all about you.

This advice can help your teen enjoy a less-stressful Thanksgiving, and although they may not express it, they will be thankful that you’re in their corner.

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