It’s finals week, which means it’s time for some of us to head home for the holidays and spend some much needed time decompressing. But what if when you return home you feel you are treated more like the high school student you once were than the mature individual your parents dropped off at NSU four months ago? Going home for the holidays may be a time to relax and hang out with friends, but it also comes with expectations from parents to follow rules, curfews and other responsibilities that were previously instilled in high school. This is typically a point of contention for freshly adapted college students and their respective parents. To try and remedy this issue, it’s important to understand all the moving parts.
According to Diana Formoso, an associate professor in the College of Psychology, from the parent’s perspective, raising children is the process of slowly letting go and giving children the opportunity to stand on their own two feet into their emerging adulthood. The process is difficult and bittersweet: parents feel they prepared their child for these adult roles, but also feel a sense of loss over the closeness and security they had when the child was younger and living at home.
From the student’s perspective, they are experiencing newfound independence and are testing their limits, making decisions completely on their own for quite possibly the first time in their life. When they come home and are critiqued for their decisions or are forced to follow certain regulations, it can affect the parent-student dynamic. Regardless of what perspective is taken, it is overall an incredibly delicate time that requires considerations from both perspectives to reach a feasible compromise.
Formoso explained that it’s important for both parents and students to acknowledge each others’ standpoints and approach the conversation with clear lines of communication and a level of empathy and respect. Both parents and students must understand each other’s perspectives, discuss healthy boundaries and take into consideration moral values and cultural expectations to allow for the most productive conversation that leads the relationship a step forward.
To approach parents, students must understand that, if this is the first time or longest time away from home — especially if they are an only child — their parents probably miss them and are looking forward to having them back home and involved in the festivities. However, parents must also understand that their students also haven’t seen their friends or experienced what makes home “home” in a while, meaning the student might prefer to spend some time catching up with friends, visiting their favorite local hangouts, just catching up on some sleep or having a day to just veg out and be lazy on the couch.
“If [students] can approach this conversation with empathy and acknowledge [the parent’s perspective] and make time for their parents, as well as their friends and other expectations of their break, it might help the parents relax. It helps the parents understand that their student is trying to balance all these familial and peer [roles] as well as personal roles and responsibilities. Explaining that [to parents] would be very helpful,” said Formoso.
Formoso also explained that parents should recognize they have raised capable, competent young people who can make their own decisions.The only way for students to get better at stepping into these adults roles is to make choices without someone holding their hand.
This is a time in a student’s life where they have to be honest with themselves and with their parents about their intentions for the future relationship they want to have with their parents as they become adults and potentially start their own families and live their own lives as individuals.
This is a time for parents and students to discuss the hopes they have for what they would like family life to look like in the future, and for parents to understand that their child now has a say in that conversation. Despite cultural or personal expectations from parents or the students, this is a time to start making decisions as a family and taking everyone’s opinions into account, even if this includes something that might disappoint your parents in the short term. It’s part of the process of growing up.
“This is a really hard balancing act that parents and kids [have gone] through a few times already. Through the terrible twos, high school, college and now into adulthood, it’s normal and positive and beneficial in a lot of ways. If you keep love and respect at the center of [the conversation,] everything should work out just fine,” said Formoso.