How to convince your parents / caregivers that college did not replace you with an alien
Coming back home from college and expecting everything to be right as rain is a myth. College changes you. The thing about change is that you’re not often aware of it until you take a step back and look at yourself. Look at your photos from the beginning of high school and compare them to now. I bet you didn’t realize how small and young you looked as a freshman in high school. That same shock you get looking at old photos is similar to what your parents or caregivers experience when you come home from college.
Not being able to understand that their child is no longer a child, some parents or caregivers do the only thing they know how to do - treat you the way they always have. This does not sit right with you, though; you’ve had a taste of independence and know you’re mature enough to be treated like an adult.
These two opposing approaches are bound to clash. What should you do before everything explodes?
1. Take a deep breath
Cliché? Yes. But it helps. Often when you and your parents/caregivers disagree, you can get pulled back into your angsty teenage years and react to every little thing with an angry explosion. Rather than show your parents/caregivers the adult you’ve become, you show them you’ve regressed while you’ve been away. Yelling and storming out of the room won’t get you very far. Next time, before you get upset, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you are an adult, not a teen who’s rebelling against the establishment. Then talk to your parents/caregivers in a calm but firm manner. That’ll get their attention more, in the long run.
2. Have an honest and thoughtful discussion with your parents/caregivers
Take the initiative and find a moment where you and your parents/caregivers can sit down together and discuss some realistic expectations around the house. By making the first move for an honest conversation, you demonstrate to your parents/caregivers that you are a mature adult capable of mature conversations.
However, be prepared to compromise! Any mature discussion involves compromise. Don’t expect to completely abandon your entire college lifestyle once you’re home but do be prepared to find a compromise between your and your family’s lifestyles. Remember, it may not be what you’re used to anymore but some rules are there for good reason. You’re sharing the house with other people and you need to be considerate of them .You are not the only one who has to adjust when coming home, and it’s unfair to expect everyone at home to accommodate your way of life all at once.
3. Spend time with them
The best way to get your parents/caregivers familiar with the “new you,” and remind them that you’re not a completely different person, is to spend time with them. For so many years, we see our parents/caregivers as our authority figures and we forget that they’re first or foremost relationships in our lives. As with any relationship, you need to spend time with the other person to make it stronger. Instead of cringing when your mom or grandma asks you go to the grocery store, go. Join your dad’s evening walk. Help your uncle with the yard work. Enjoy their presence and remember what life was like before you left.
4. Be prepared to wait
Don’t get frustrated if you don’t see results immediately. Sometimes parents/caregivers take a while to get with the program. As long as you make it obvious that your current self is not going to be reverting to your high school self anytime soon, your parents/caregivers will come around. Your patience will be another sign of your increased maturity.
5. Do NOT feel guilty or ashamed about your growth
You have become different. That is normal. Growth and change, especially during college, is a healthy and natural occurrence. It’s not like you are a new person altogether, and just because your parents/caregivers aren’t used to it does not mean you’ve become a bad person. This “new you” is something to be proud of because it is a testament to all that you’ve gone through and the path you’re on going forward.
6. Surround yourself with love and support from friends and other family
It’s tough not to feel guilty when all you ever seem to do with your parents/caregivers at home is fight. Leaving for college may start to look like the wrong choice because this definitely was not a problem before you left. If you are feeling down, confused, or upset about the situation at home, surround yourself with friends and other family who will support you just the way you are right now. Call your new college friends. Hang out with a couple of your old high school buddies. Hey, swing by your cousin’s home if you want. Surrounding yourself with friends does not mean you love your parents/caregivers any less or that they don’t love you, but sometimes your friends can give you the support that your parents/caregivers can’t, especially when the support is about your relationship with them.
Coming back home can be difficult, no doubt, but by focusing on how to adjust, the experience becomes more manageable. Remember, you may not have control over others’ reactions but you do have control over your own. Keep that in mind and the adjustment may go smoother than you ever expected.
About the author…
Anitta Machanickal is the Managing Editor of propellercollective.org and a recent graduate of Davidson College, where she earned a BA in English. She’s a first gen and limited-income graduate who focused most of her college years helping young, limited-income students and children of immigrants, and continues this through Propeller Collective.