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Home for The Holidays
Exponent article by Dr Brian Kassar
Counseling & Psychological Services
Many students face the dilemma of going back to their parents' home for the holidays after having spent the last few months living by their own rules. Going home can be a source of relaxation, comfort, and relief, but it can also create some new conflicts when students' new-found independence clashes with Mom and Dad's old rules.
Christmas is perhaps the first time that students return home for an extended amount of time. Keeping the following items in mind may be helpful in navigating family interactions over the extended winter break:
- Your parents are likely unaware of the independence and autonomy you've gained since you've been at school; they may be expecting things to be the way you were before you left home. You can avoid this conflict by talking to them before you go home and negotiating with them about how you want things to be. Letting them know how you feel about coming back home after being on your own for these last few months can initiate a conversation about rules, expectations, and preferences.
- Be aware that your parents and siblings have likely settled into new patterns or routines since you've left, and that your return may change things in their lives as well. A mutual respect for each other's "space" will help keep things running smoothly.
- Be prepared for the fact that no matter what you've done or experienced, it will be difficult not to slip back into the "role" you've always played in your family. We all have roles and ways of being in our family, and once we're back in that context, it's easy to step right back into them. It may be difficult for your family to see you outside of the role they're used to, so be aware for some potential differences in how you see yourself and how your family sees you.
- Try to respect your parents' preferences. Some things that you do here at school just may not fly at home. Sleeping in the same bed as your partner, underage drinking, or staying out all night may not be things that your parents are ready for or feel they can condone.
- Be prepared to answer the same questions a dozen times about what you're majoring in, what your career plans are, etc. Some relatives may not know what to say after you've been gone for so long, and these may be easy conversation-starters. Plus, they may be really interested in your new life; don't forget to ask them questions about their lives, too.
- You may find it difficult to equally divide your time between family and friends who all want to see you. Decide what takes priority before you go home, and try to stick to those boundaries. This will help reduce stress and over-commitment and assure that the time you spend with others is quality time. Remember to take time out for yourself and to reward yourself for all the hard work you put in this semester!