Rachel Allen

Home Alone? You Wish.: 10 Tips for Readjusting to Family Life Over Break

College kids – you did it! Finals are over, you’ve survived the semester, and now it’s time to kick off your shoes, relax, and… move back in with Mom and Dad? Oh, joy to the world, y’all.

You might be psyched to get back to the comforts of home, or perhaps you’re less than excited to leave the dorm behind. The transition of coming home and bunking up with the ‘rents is never easy. I know – I did it twice a year in college, and again for two years after I graduated.

So, how can you make this month at home with mommy more merry? Here are my top ten tips on how to live with your family for the holidays:

10. Their Timing Is Not Our Timing

I’m pretty sure there was a good three or four month stretch of college where I never went to bed… I just took a lot of naps. I’d sleep for an hour or two at time, four or five times a day. It was totally normal for me to be awake at 3am, whether that was writing a paper, watching TV, eating, or hanging out with my friends.

…I don’t think my parents have seen 3am since they last fed me as a baby.

Life at school runs according to your own schedule. Coming home will mean some adjustments to your timing. I’m not saying you have to start getting up for 6am yoga and then follow Dad off to the office, but, while you’re at home, do your best to adopt a slightly more human schedule.

9. Noise Curfew

I remember sitting up in the living room, watching a movie at midnight, and hearing my dad lumber down the hallway to come ask me to turn it down. The scene was reversed 8 hours later, when my dad (from the living room) would be talking with my mom (in the kitchen). Seriously, people?! Must we be yelling so early in the morning?

You probably had some kind of quiet hours in the dorms during finals week, right? It might not be a bad idea to bring those home with you… perhaps 10pm to 10am? That way, everybody wins.

8. Real Curfew

It’s their house and their rules. I know a lot of parents who lose sleep over kids being out late at night, and if those are the kind of parents you have, then that’s just how it goes.

I didn’t have a curfew in high school – but even without one, I still had to come in to my parents’ room, wake up my mom, and let her know I made it home. Otherwise, she’d wake up in a panic at 5:30 in the morning and come running to my room to make sure I was home and breathing.

If your parents reinstate the curfew when you come home for break, just roll with it. Your friends probably have those kind of parents, too. Trust me, they’ll understand.

7. FOOD

One of the serious perks of coming home? Real food!

No more cafeteria, no more Ramen! And – even better – it’s not just any food, it’s holiday food! Cookies and cupcakes and turkey and ham and a breakfast feast that includes actual eggs, not powder!

Make sure to take a break from stuffing your face long enough to say thank you. And recognize that by having an extra mouth to feed (again), there’s extra work to be done. Your family probably doesn’t have a cafeteria staff on hand to shop, prepare, cook, or clean up, so pitch in. Besides, it’s a good way to work off the extra calories consumed…

6. Housekeeping

When I went off to college, I actually became a much cleaner kid – maybe because I lived in a dorm room with a stranger, and I didn’t want her to think I was a total slob? It was probably because dorm quarters are tiny and any extra clutter made me feel like I was suffocating.

But that’s not how things roll at home. At home, you’ve got a whole house with tons of square footage to drop your shoes, coat, bag, pants, etc…

Your parents’ house is not a dorm. It’s kind of like the food thing – being an extra person means making an extra mess, so just try to be aware and pick up after yourself. You want to show your family that you’re not a little kid anymore, right? So don’t act like one who leaves their toys all over the house.

5. Quality Time

Whether your dorm is 30 minutes or a three-hour flight away from home, the reality is, you probably haven’t seen much of Mom and Dad for the past few months. And now, suddenly, you’re sharing the same roof!

I know, I know, all your friends are home, too. But avoid the temptation to spend every minute of your visit home outside of your home. You actually get to see your family… so see them. Take advantage of the real (versus digital) face time you guys have for as long as you live together.

4. Helping Out

Look for ways to make yourself useful around the house – not because you owe your family (although you do… big time) but because that’s what being a part of a family is all about. We take care of each other.

So run a dishwasher, baby-sit younger siblings, wrap Christmas presents, fold a basket of laundry – whatever! Not only will it make Mom and Dad happy to have you home, but you’ll have the satisfaction of becoming their favorite chi— I mean, you’ll know you helped out, which is the greatest gift of all.

3. Sharing Is Caring

Speaking of being the favorite child – it’s a tough spot to nab if you have any siblings. Especially when you’ve been away at school, giving them uninterrupted access to the family wheels… and now suddenly you’re home and want to use the car, whenever you want?!

When you’re home over break, do your best to remember that everyone at home got used to life without you. You can’t expect their worlds to re-orbit overnight. Patience, here, is key… patience, and maybe ‘I got to it first!’ (…kidding!)

2. With All Due Respect

And boy, is it due…

Look, let’s just face it: families are one of the quickest ways to make us holy. We grow in virtues like patience, selflessness, humility, and fortitude (that one’s a killer) by sharing space with a collection of individuals who have their own hearts, wants, needs, and wills. It’s not easy – but it’s good.

Want to make your break miserable? Forget to respect the members of your family. That means respecting your parents – what they ask you to do, when they ask you to be home, how they want their house to run while you’re there. It means respecting your siblings, and fighting that temptation to fall back into fighting with them. It means that pesky Golden Rule, and treating your family the way you want to be treated. And mostly, it means…

1. Love

True loves wills the good of another – St. Thomas Aquinas said that. So, while you’re home with your family, will their good. That means getting off your butt and working for it. It’s not easy, nor is it always fun, but it is good.

Many people spend this time of year missing their families or wishing they even had one to miss. If you’ve got one, and one you get to come home to… you’re blessed.

I know family life is not an easy life, especially when you’re plopped back into it after a few months (or maybe even years) on your own.

This list is not foolproof. Trust me, I’m no expert. But Jesus was born into a family on purpose, because God wants to use our families to help make us holy.

So even if the only prayer you pray over break is, “Lord, have mercy!” – that’s okay. God knows. And He hears. I’m praying for you.

Rachel Allen

About the Author

I work for a retreat ministry called the REAP Team, where it's my full-time job to talk about sex, love, dating, and chastity (which can sometimes lead to some awesomely awkward moments). I love being Catholic, watching movies, and browsing antique malls. The only thing I have against winter is the fact that there's no baseball. Feel free to email me at [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @rachel_m_allen