With the holidays around the corner, you may be excited (or bracing yourself) to go home. You just finished up midterms or finals and are likely looking for a stress-free break. Here at The Shrink Space we understand that as a college student going home for the holidays may feel like anything but stress-free. To help make your time home as smooth as possible, we are sharing some considerations for students returning home for the holidays.
Plan your holiday break in advance.
As a college student going home for the holidays can be an exciting time to reunite with friends and family. But it can also be stressful when you have a lot of people to see. Maybe your parents are divorced and you have to split your time between multiple sides. Trying to divide up your family time can be difficult if you are also trying to see friends, catch up on sleep, and reconnect with hobbies you haven’t had time for in college. Try not to assume your parents know what you need. Remember you’ve likely changed since going to college. So your parents may not be able to anticipate your new needs. Instead, you may need to communicate them more explicitly.
Thanksgiving break is brief; try planning out your time in advance. Let your family know if there are things you’d like to do together, on your own, or with your friends. Then be sure to communicate these plans with your loved ones. Discussing these plans ahead of time will help set your family and friends’ expectations of how much time they’ll spend with you, as well as prevent arguments about not having enough time together.
Be Prepared for Questions.
Your friends and family may be curious about what you’ve been up to during the last several months. Curiosity likely means interest. It’s great that others want to hear about your experiences and growth, but depending on the circumstances this may feel overwhelming or intrusive. This may be particularly relevant if you are working through your own internal changes that you’re not yet ready to share with others. That is okay. Before going home for the holidays, write down the questions you anticipate your loved ones may ask you. Think about what you are comfortable sharing. Stick with these boundaries when you go home.
Get Sleep (and do your laundry).
Going home for the holidays is a time to rest, recover and have some fun before finishing up your semester or starting a new one. Take advantage of the break and make sure you prioritize your time to care for your basic needs.
Home has changed.
It can feel jarring to return home and witness changes firsthand. It may feel that the home you left just months before is gone forever. Your parents may have redecorated or changed your bedroom to an office/gym. Your parents may have separated or divorced. Or likely the family dynamics have shifted now that you are out of the house. To help set your expectations, before going home spend some time thinking about what these changes may feel like.
Like you, your friends from high school have probably also grown. They’ve had their own experiences in college and/or in the workplace. Be prepared for, and open to, these changes because change doesn’t mean you’ve grown apart. Remaining curious about your friends’ experiences will help preserve relationships and likely deepen them.
Home has NOT changed. But maybe you have.
You’ve been living on your own for several months or even several years now, but your parents may not be ready to acknowledge this. They also may not be ready to adjust their house rules. To reduce conflicts while home, try having a conversation with your parents before returning. This may help clarify the spoken and unspoken rules (curfew, having friends over, technology use, drinking, etc.). Calmly communicating your expectations in advance, rather than in the heat of the moment, will signal maturity and respect for your parents and their house rules. It will also give your parents the time they may need to adjust to your adulting. After you speak with them about your expectations, be prepared to make some compromises. It may be unrealistic to expect your parents to change as quickly as you have grown.
Remember you can’t always have it both ways – meaning the safety and security of childhood and the independence of adulthood. As you ask for more independence, your parents may also ask you to take on more responsibility.
The Shrink Space can Help.
Going to college allows you time away from home to reflect on your family dynamics and the ways you’ve been shaped by them. Then later on returning home to these family dynamics with a new self-awareness can be very difficult, especially if you have a complicated home life. You do not need to be alone in these feelings and thoughts. This is where The Shrink Space can support you.
Search our database of quality therapists who specialize in working with emerging adults. You can filter by lots of different criteria including availability, insurance, and therapists’ social identities. If we partner with your university, you can search for community providers your school knows. For added support, you can also choose to keep your university counseling center updated on your progress in finding a therapist.
The Shrink Space is currently in New York and New Orleans. We are expanding to a bunch of other cities and universities across the nation. If you’re interested in learning how The Shrink Space can come to your city or university – email us! We’d love to hear from you!
We hope you’re able to share the growth you’ve made in college with your loved ones! Happy Holidays from your team at The Shrink Space!