Returning home for the holidays after a semester at college can be a bittersweet experience. These feelings are intensified if it’s your first time returning home after months away at school. You might feel like everything and everyone in your home environment has changed. And you’re not wrong; but relax, it’s okay!
If you’re feeling less than excited about a pending return home or have found the transition harder than expected, know that this is completely normal and that a little perspective and patience can help you adjust back to family life, whether it’s for a quick weekend or winter break or for an entire summer.
Deferring Views on Independence
You have been away from home for weeks, maybe even months. You have developed your own routine, have had to manage your own money, have been cleaning your dorm and stocking it with essentials, and have made decisions on how to manage your time. Meanwhile, your parents may still see you as the teenager who needs guidance and supervision to make good choices.
If your parents are used to instituting a curfew, they may expect everything to revert back to usual when you return home. Don’t press them more than is necessary but do have an honest conversation and point out your accomplishments over the past semester to help them understand your perspective.
Showing Respect Goes Both Ways
During your time at school, you might have come to appreciate how much your parents do for you and how much you still depend on them, while they have become accustomed to limited demands from you and may not relish suddenly washing an extra batch of clothes and making a home-cooked meal every night.
Show your parents that you truly have matured by helping out around the house rather than expecting them to revert back to their previous roles. This goes for your bedroom too. If mom and dad converted your old bedroom into a study and now have you sleeping in the loft, try to see it as their way of coping with your absence rather than asking them to change things “back to normal.”
Navigating the Friendship Maze
The life-of-the-party bestie who enrolled at a different school may have turned into a serious student overnight, or perhaps he or she stayed in your hometown to pursue a technical career and still has the live-in-the-moment mentality you whittled down through competing deadlines and pressure to perform at college.
When you return home, it’s natural to expect you can step right back into the friendships you left behind or maintained through virtual communication, but both of you will have changed. Moreover, just as you have made new connections at college, your closest hometown friends may have forged new relationships as well.
You can still have a great time together, but it’s important to recognize that what you want and need out of your friendship may have shifted significantly.
Reaching Out for Support While Home
Whether support comes in the form of an impartial family friend, older sibling, former school counselor, or current college advisor, plan to return home armed with one or two potential contacts in case things get out of control or you find yourself growing depressed.
Keep in mind that the sudden transition from high school student to independent young adult can be hard on you, your family, and friends, but with patience and empathy for one another, you can enjoy the journey.