Tis the season for friends and relatives bringing both wanted gifts and an overwhelming desire to corner your teen and pepper them with questions about their plans.

To make it clear, a high school student posted her answers on the front door for all to see so she could avoid answering the same questions over and over because college talk is stressful.

Below is a short list of what parents should do to help steer the holiday conversations away from a focus on college talk.

1.) Set up a college-free talk zone. With holidays around the corner, be sure to communicate this rule to visiting relatives. Grandparents may view this time as a chance to connect with their grandkid by peppering them with college questions. This really stresses teens out, especially those who are staring at rapidly approaching January deadlines.

College-bound teens needs a break from thinking or talking about their plans, and would really appreciate a conversation about almost anything else. So help steer the college talk your teen is having with Aunt Sally towards the activities your child is involved in. Help give them a chance to talk about whether they had fun at Homecoming or what movie they saw recently. Teens want—and need—to be able to enjoy the here and now. The constant college talk doesn’t allow them to just be a senior in high school looking forward to the next great high school thing.

2.) No college talk in hushed whispers about your teen’s college plans. Everyone at your holiday gatherings will have opinions, however well meaning, about the schools your child has or will apply to. Trust me, all teens can sniff out a conversation about them from a mile away. If you forget this rule, see rule #1.

Parents, remember being humble and quiet about your child’s college applications is much appreciated by your teen. It also lessens the chance of any embarrassment that comes further down the line if you’ve trumpeted how absolutely sure you are your child is getting into every school they applied to and they don’t. Keep in mind that the family tradition of getting into a highly selective, brand-name, bumper sticker university isn’t in the bag until your teen is holding the admission letter.

3) Take a deep breath and wait for the college acceptance letters to roll in. Be excited if your child is excited. That first acceptance letter is a huge relief to your teen. No matter how accomplished they are the universal feelings are “I’m going to college!” If denial or deferment letters come through keep your emotions in check. It hurts to see your child disappointed but, it’s even more upsetting to them to see your sorrow. Their universal feeling, underneath their teen veneer, is they’ve failed you and disappointed you. If you need a reminder of why not getting into the big name school you hope for them isn’t as important as you think, read this.

With winter break right around the corner remember it’s just that—a break, from all things college. Help your teen keep this journey in perspective. Remind them that their success lies within them and not at the school that did or didn’t accept them.

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