The GVSU winter semester is wrapping up and soon many students will be returning to their parents home from their Allendale student apartments – whether just for the summer, or until graduates can achieve economic independence and start building their own nests. Freshmen, in particular, need to be prepared for the jarring feeling of being a “child” again in their parents’ homes. Graduates may resent that their opportunities may be limited for awhile yet and that they still need help. But living with your parents doesn’t have to be problematic. If you understand the basic conflicts inherent in parent/adult child relationships, it will be easier to manage them. Typically, there are three major stressors:
- Personal freedom – After a year or years of coming and going as you please, not having to be accountable for your whereabouts, you will find that your parents still feel they are your parents and you are their child. They may have been comfortable not keeping close tabs on you when you were physically distant, but may fall back into habits of worry when you are back under their roof. They might try to police your eating habits, your drinking habits, and the people you associate with along with your comings and goings. This will probably seem annoying and intrusive, but try to remember that your parents are also taking on responsibility for you after a well deserved break, and they may not enjoy the burden even if it is a familiar one. The more you show them how adult and responsible you are, the more they can feel they don’t have to look over those areas of your life anymore. The more you establish your own routine, the less they have to worry about.
- Intellectual freedom – College is a time of exposure to new thoughts and ideas. It’s a period of personal growth and experimentation as you experience how the world outside of your family works and how you fit into it. Parents, however, are pretty invested in the you they raised and nurtured and may not have the same passion for the politics, causes, and religious beliefs (or lack thereof) you now have. This can lead to arguments, hard feelings, and resentment, but it doesn’t have to. Remember that just as you have the freedom to believe what you will, so do your parents. Their ideas about the world and how it should work has come from years of experiences you haven’t had. If you do not try to convert them to your way of thinking, they will be less likely to object to it. If you find that you only argue when you attempt to share your beliefs, limit these kinds of conversations, at least until they’ve had time to adjust to your opinions. “Live and let live,” – so important in apartment living, is also very solid advice here.
- Financial freedom – The economic realities of the “new normal” may cause some conflict as well. Your parents came of age in a time when the cost of living and the cost of an education were more affordable. They likely didn’t live with their parents after college – at least for long – and they may not fully understand how some of your choices are constrained by student loans and a dearth of well paying jobs with benefits. On the other hand, younger people often take for granted how much parents sacrifice to give their children opportunities – which can make parents feel unappreciated and even used. Having regular conversations about what your finances allow you to contribute to household expenses and offering to help around the house (and following through with that help) will help make your living there seem a “team effort” – with your success as the goal – instead of just mooching.
No matter how challenging it can seem to live with your parents again after you’ve experienced the freedoms of college and student apartment living, these are the people who care the most and have invested the most in you, so there’s a built-in advantage to dealing with any conflict: unlike your boss or your professors, they love you. If you try to understand their point of view and treat their needs with respect, it will go more smoothly for everyone. And, remember, this is temporary. Hardly anyone lives with their parents forever, even in this new normal. So enjoy your summer and your family as much as you can.