Adjusting to Life at Home during College Breaks

If adjusting to life at college was a challenge, then readjusting to life at home during winter or summer break (or even long weekends) can be an even bigger challenge.

After eight or nine months of setting your own hours and doing as you please, any limits set by Mom and Dad can come across as inflexible and unwarranted.

Here's what you need to understand: It's their house, and they set the rules.

Your best strategy is to show you understand there are rules. Readjusting to those rules may be hard, but it is their house and you have the choice of not coming back home. Respect your parents and they will respect you.

When you demonstrate such mature empathy, your parents might show some surprising new flexibility. It'll dawn on them that the old high school limits don't entirely apply anymore.

But don't be mistaken — there are still limits. Parents will never adjust to their children returning home at 4 in the morning. Never. It's not that they don't trust their sons and daughters; it's that they don't trust anything or anybody at that hour. The only thing they trust is to have their child, at home, in bed. Asleep.

So be an adult and work with your parents instead of against them. Introduce them to your friends, and provide reassurance by telling them what you're doing and when. There's no need to go into every single detail, and they may not even ask for it. By taking the initiative to communicate with your folks, you avoid the who-what-when-where line of questioning that always leads to anguish.

Keep these other pointers in mind while you're in your parents' home:

  • Lose the kiddie act. Whether you've been prone to pouting, mouthing off, laziness, or basic self-centeredness, it's time to show everyone that you've grown up.

  • Define expectations. On your first day back, talk with your parents about curfews, car use, meal times (will you be at the dinner table?). Your expectations and theirs will differ, so compromise.

  • Clean up after yourself and around the house without being asked. Volunteer to go to the supermarket, vacuum, do laundry, walk the dog, or do the dishes. (Merely volunteering doesn't cut it — follow through and do it!)

  • Spend time with your family. Yes, you've missed all your friends and you want to hang out with them, but don't ignore your parents or siblings. They've missed you too. Share stories of your life away from home. Participate in family activities without complaining. Reminisce. Laugh at dumb jokes and laugh at yourself.

  • Don't be obnoxious. Going to college exposes you to a whole new world of ideas and opinions. You may feel compelled to share those views with folks at home — go right ahead, but don't ram it down their throats. Just because you're in college doesn't mean you're always right.