Home (from college) for the Holidays

Home (from College) for the Holidays

Winter break is around the corner. You imagine having time to unwind, sleep in, and decompress after final exams. You want to reconnect with high school friends and maybe just hang out with the family pet. Maybe you’ll work at your old job a bit to make some extra spending money for next semester or stop by your old high school to say hello. It all sounds pretty dreamy, but being back at home can be more challenging than many anticipate, especially for first-year college students.

Although many students welcome the thought of spending some quality time with their family, parents can have a much different idea of how much time together constitutes a sufficient amount to be “quality.” The long and short of it is that they might expect things to go back to how they used to be before you moved out. This can be very frustrating for a college student who is in the throes of becoming an independent adult (and seems to be doing a pretty good job at it thankyouverymuch!)

Here are some common scenarios that you might encounter going back and tips for how to handle each one:

  • You are exhausted after a difficult semester, and all you want is to catch up on your sleep. Parents may see this as laziness and wonder if all you do while at school is sleep. Obviously not—you work hard for school because you like it and it is important. Ask them not to come in and open the blinds at 8AM please—this is a VACATION after all—but you appreciate their hospitality and will of course help with some chores later.
  • If you have siblings at home, the family structure might have to reconfigure. For example, the middle sibling is now used to being the eldest, and for them it may be more of a drag than a delight to have big brother or sister home again. Let them know not to worry, because you’ll be out of the house soon enough. A friendly game of Monopoly or a trip to the mall together might break the ice and make it fun to be around one another again.
  • Be prepared to discuss money issues openly. Becoming financially independent is a process—a journey, really—with a lot of opportunities to learn and make mistakes. Maybe you bought 87 pizzas this semester when you only had enough money to buy 64. Budgeting is important—ask your parents to help you out or give you some pointers…not just more money.
  • Again, time may be an issue. You may be grabbing your coat to leave as your flabbergasted parents were about to get in bed. As author Karen Coburn state in Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years, “It’s tough on parents because even though they have grown used to not knowing what time their child comes back to her room when she’s away at college, parents can’t turn off their ‘worry button’ when it’s 2AM and the car isn’t back in the driveway. Parents don’t stop being parents. They worry about their child’s safety. It helps to come to an agreement that recognizes their child’s growing independence, as well as their own need not to worry.”
  • Talk to your parents about your experiences in college. Parents err on the side of educational and professional progress (i.e. asking about grades, teachers, and goals), so tell them about your favorite subjects, books, performances, or pieces of music that changed your life. Tell them the highlights of your semester and how you’ve changed; it can be rewarding for both of you to acknowledge your accomplishments. 
  • Try to make plans in advance. Family gatherings might interfere with social gatherings, so try to talk about things ahead of time so conflict is kept to a minimum.

Basically, the key is communication. Don’t be afraid to express how you like to do more things on your own now and to kindly request respect for your need to develop independence. That being said, try to also respect your parents’ necessity to be parents and to look out for your safety, success, and well-being. Do you feel equipped to head home for the holidays?! Good luck!

Blog was written by therapist Sarah Souder Johnson, MEd., LPCC 

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I’m Anxious About My Future

It is very normal to feel anxious about the future. For one thing, the future brings lots of uncertainty, which can be anxiety provoking in itself. Also, when thinking about the future, there are big decisions to make such as whether or not to go to college, take a gap year, enter the workforce, etc. Maybe you haven’t made these decisions yet and that’s okay. Some people put pressure on themselves about these decisions and/or get pressure from outside sources such as teachers and parents. Maybe you have gotten the message that you need to know what you want to do RIGHT NOW, and that what you choose you will be stuck with until you retire. That’s a lot of pressure! No wonder you are anxious if this is how the future feels to you.is my teen suffering from anxiety

Future decisions are not set in stone. You can take your time to make up your mind and can then make changes along the way. Some people change their major in college numerous times. Some people go to school for one thing and end up doing something else. Some people have a career for a while and then change careers later in life. All of this is okay. While thinking about the future is scary, taking time to plan out the future might decrease anxiety because it decreases uncertainty. And be ready for the curves or changes of heart that come along with being human. We don’t always know how things are going to be, or how we are going to feel. There is not a “right” way, as we are all different.

I also see young people worry about the future because they think if they take a “misstep” their dreams will unravel. For example, they think they need to get all As or they will not get to have the future they want (or the future others want for them). Again, no wonder you feel anxious if you are being given the message that one B will ruin your future. It’s okay to not get all As. Many people who did not get all As in school go on to have very successful careers. I’m not saying don’t try in school. I’m just saying that you don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself.

what decision making actually looks like

Or maybe you are anxious for the future because it is such a big change (like those of you who are about to graduate high school, go off to college, or enter the workforce). Other people feel nervous about these transitions, too. You are not alone. Think about other times you have gone through a transition, like the transition from middle school to high school. Remind yourself you were able to get through it.

In summary, here are the strategies I have detailed to reduce worry about future:

  1. Remind yourself that decisions are not set in stone; life is fluid and ever changing. It is okay to change your mind.
  2. Make a plan, so that you know your next step. Remember, plans can change. This is a normal part of life and helps us understand ourselves better!
  3. Do your best to put less pressure on yourself!
  4. Remember other transitions you have gone through in your life that turned out okay. Think positive thoughts!

There are many reasons why thinking about the future is difficult. What has helped you in managing your anxiety about the future?

Blog written by Sentier therapist, Andrea Schroeder, MS, LPCC, LPC


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