How to deal with the stress of going home

By Kristen Finley
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A trunk load of belongings to take home to make moving out easier.

Unless you’re an athlete, have a job you’re keeping for the summer or enrolled in summer courses, chances are you’re taking a trip to your hometown for summer break to be with your family. Going home can be a stressor that nags at the back of the mind and cultivates a deep sense of dread, while for others, it’s something that’s highly anticipated. If you’re one of a large group of students who dread going back home, here are some refresher tips to ease the stress of going home.

Knowing your place

Being on your own for extended periods of time is sure to have made you a more independent person who’s developed their own routines, and developed sense of what’s acceptable and what’s not. While that’s a fantastic quality to have for a young adult, it can cause some tension in a household where those expectations and routines are different.

Before jumping down your mother’s throat for yelling at you about leaving your dishes in the sink for two days like you’re used to at home, take a step back and swallow your pride. You’re in a household that operates under rules that are different from yours. It’s much easier for everyone involved to just adapt to these changes for the short time you’re there. After all, for the majority of the year you’re not as accessible to your family as you are on summer break – half of the responsibility of enjoying your vacation falls on you.

Expecting the unexpected

It’d be foolish on your part to assume the home and folks within it would be the exact same way you left it after a long while. Therefore, a good strategy to avoid bad surprises would be to have a quick chat before heading out about what you should expect. Has someone moved in and rearranged your old room? Has an annoying relative taken residence in the home? Or, is your old room even still available? Time and time again, a student has driven home to be told they’d be sleeping on the couch because a cousin or an aunt is staying in the now empty space left behind by a student.

Another thing to consider is how different you may have become in your time away from home. You’ve got different likes and dislikes, a different sleeping schedule, different hobbies or even friend groups. In your absence, your family has had to make adjustments to life without you, so the family dynamic may be different from what you remember. Be sure to be attentive and respectful of these changes, since it’s what will make or break your vacation.

Protecting your sleep schedule

The call of sleeping in may be one that’s difficult to resist, especially since there isn’t an 8 a.m. class you need to rise early for anymore. While it’s definitely in the top five on the list of reasons to enjoy a break from school, it’s a habit that can be extremely difficult to reign in as the next semester comes into view. In no way is it suggested that you don’t enjoy sleeping in entirely – it’s just strongly advised that you sleep in reasonably. So, instead of waking up at noon, try setting an alarm for 10 a.m. to make adjusting to an early school schedule miles easier when it comes time.

The dreaded 20 questions game

Without a doubt, the barrage of questions (all similar and equally irritating) from relatives can be the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard for most. Though, relating back to my previous point about being a different person as you develop into independence, these questions should be taken with a grain of salt.

Try to imagine being in their shoes for a moment: their child has taken flight into the unknown and gone to college to further themselves and their education. After not seeing their child for what can add up to a few months at a time, they come back with different interests, hobbies, friend groups, different slang or even different tastes in music and food. Naturally, they’re going to be curious as to what sparked these changes. Anyone would be bursting at the seams with questions about what you college is like and what you like and don’t like.

Point is, be patient. More likely than not, they’re just trying to formulate a more accurate picture of who you are in their head. However, if these questions are accusatory, passive aggressive or even all out aggressive, it’s perfectly acceptable to place down firm boundaries on what you will and won’t answer. Under no circumstances should you submit to attempted assassinations to your character.

Make time for family, too

While it’s fun and exciting to have extra time to hang out with your friends from your hometown and catch up, keep in mind that your family probably wants to spend quality time with you, too. Since a majority of your time is spent away from home and on campus, it’s likely that the majority of their contact with you is over FaceTime or via phone calls and that can a good way to catch up, but it’s not the same as sitting across someone and talking. Make sure you try and achieve an equal balance of time between your friends and your family to keep the bonds stretched over miles and miles as close as they were before you left.

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