5 Tips From A Family Therapist for College Students (and Parents) Living At Home This Semester
With COVID-19 throwing college plans for a huge loop, families have been reevaluating plans. Many are anticipating making the difficult decision to have their college student living at home for the semester. Whether because your university is only providing virtual education, or it is financially advantageous, or safety is a concern for vulnerable students and families, it may make sense for you college students to live at home during of covid-19. There are bound to be disappointing emotions and obstacles in family life when this was not what anyone was hoping for or expecting. But with these 5 tips for college students living at home because of Covid-19, you can have a smoother semester!
Tip #1- Separate Your Living and Learning Spaces
Neuroscience shows the importance of having a variety of physical spaces. Our brains equate different environments with different purposes. Trying to make one-space-fit-all will be ineffective. If you spend your learning time in your room, it will no longer feel relaxing, and instead it will become associated with school tasks, work, and anxiety. This will make your room no longer enjoyable and may make falling asleep difficult. This means you’ll want to spend more time in shared common space of the home with your family, which will feel less like the independence you want. The pull between wanting to be out of your room and also not wanting to spend your free time with family can make you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place! Prevent this by protecting your room as your safe haven in the first place!
If you had been on campus, you would have had separate spaces for living and for learning. Try to replicate this at home! Find a specific place in your house or another covid-safe location to take your classes and do your homework.
Tip #2- Do Your Own Laundry
One of the most important aspects of college-life is learning how to be independent! This means learning time management skills to balance work, play, and cleaning your underpants*. It would sure be easy to slip into an old pattern of letting your parents do your laundry for you. Even easier for a freshman who has yet to do laundry yourself ever. DO NOT let this happen to you. The more you show your parents that you are independent, the more freedom they will give you. Plus you will be building (or maintaining) a real skill that will make your transition back campus smoother.
* all clothing and linens included
Tip #3- Accept The Reality That Living at Home Means Having Parents as Roommates
If you were on campus, your family would not be around to see when you are or aren’t studying, to tell you when to take out the trash, or to tell you what time they want you to come home. You can’t avoid the fact that your family will now have more data. It will feel like disruption to your freedom and that is both frustrating and expected. Accept the reality you are in fact living at home and need to be respectful of parents’ needs and lifestyles and that they will likely want more connection with you than had you been on campus out of sight and out of mind.
Parents also need to accept the reality you are going to want more freedom than how you lived in high-school or even when you come home from college on breaks. Parents should aim to treat a college student like a roommate: less control than a parent-child relationship and more connection than a landlord-tenant relationship.
Tip #4- Have Ongoing Family Conversations About Expectations For Living at Home
Have a conversation with your parents BEFORE the semester starts. This conversation needs to be one of equals. Instead of approaching the conversation “top-down” from the parents’ perspective, approach this conversation as two equal parties with equally valid emotions and needs. You can even show them this article if they need help with this 😉
Talk about your expectations for:
- household chores
- together vs separate time
- socialization (especially with covid standards)
- academic oversight
- substance use if applicable
There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to handle any of these matters so long as parents and students are on the same page. Negotiate and problem solve areas of disagreement.
Revisit this conversation at least once a month, or more often especially if it’s not going well. Make sure there are no unresolved frustrations. Get creative with brainstorming solutions to persistent problems. It is perfectly normal for expectations to evolve as you get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
Tip #5- Talk About Your Experience with Peers
You will NOT be the only one with increased stress living at home during what was meant to be your fun campus experience. The more you talk with others, the more normal you will feel. If you have friends who are living home too, this may be a good crowd to talk openly with. If you don’t know or have people in the same situation, consider joining a support group. Montgomery County Counseling Center will hosting a support group for college kids stuck at home due to covid-19. For more info click here OR
Reserve Your Spot NOW
- Email us! Including
- Your cohort year (ie freshmen, sophomore, junior, or senior)
- Your availability in the next 2 weeks for a 15 minute phone consultation
- After our call we’ll send you registration paperwork.
- We’ll process payment at the beginning of each month.
- We’ll send you the invite to the google-meets and you’ll be all set!
When To Get More Help
If these tips for college students aren’t enough, if family tensions are getting in the way of your ability to succeed at school, if you are feeling constantly distracted by emotions (sadness, loneliness, anxiety, or guilt, etc.), if you feel like you are having a hard time balancing work and play, or if you just need some extra self care, it may be time to consider individual therapy or family therapy. Our team of compassionate therapists are ready to help get you through this difficult and seemingly endless covid-19 adjustment.
About The Author
Laura Goldstein, LCMFT is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist in Rockville Maryland and founder of Montgomery County Counseling Center, LLC. Laura obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Family Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Laura became intensively trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) through Behavioral Tech Linehan Institute in 2015. She is also Level 1 Trained in Gottman Couples Therapy. After working in both substance use and failure to launch IOP programs, Laura now works in her private practice alongside her excellent associates! Montgomery County Counseling Center serves individuals, families, parents, and couples who are struggling with intense emotions, fraught relationships, and maladaptive coping behaviors.
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