Gutierrez: Surviving the holidays at home

Pallas Gutierrez, Opinion Editor

Winter break can be a stressful time for many reasons, but a lot of holiday stress can come from returning home for a substantial amount of time. Existing family strife combined with nothing to do and general holiday weariness can lead to blow-ups. Here’s some advice to avoid the explosions and keep the good vibes going.

The transition from college back to hometown life can be difficult. The first quarter of college for many students is the first time they are in total control of their lives. When newly independent students return home to their families, that independence is sometimes at odds with the teenagers parents remember. Parents expect their children to be home and available for family plans, while the young adults want to go out with friends.

A great starting point in that situation is a conversation with your family about what the holiday plans are. Go through a schedule with them as best you can, and figure out which days are free for you to do what you want. While this method doesn’t guarantee that family members won’t get mad at you for not being around, there is some amount of safety in knowing which days are family days and which days you can see your friends from home.

Going home means questions about school and the future. These conversations are stressful, especially when students just want to relax. Polite, truthful answers go a long way. It can also be useful to set boundaries: “I’m really enjoying spending time with you, so I’d rather focus on that than talking about school.” Another tactic is asking questions of your family members: “There’s a lot still up in the air for me, but how is your job going?” People love to talk about their own lives, and it takes the spotlight off of you.

Sometimes, going home puts students in more harmful situations. Because on-campus students have to leave for winter break due to dorm closures, people could be forced to return to houses that contain abusers or other elements that make them feel unsafe. Holidays can sometimes be centered around food, which is potentially stressful or triggering for the 32 percent of college women and 25 percent of college men who have eating disorders.

These situations are far more difficult to navigate. Setting boundaries can help, but only to a certain extent. Reaching out to your support systems at home and at college, whether that be friends, roommates, teammates, or significant others, can help remind you that there are people who want to take care of you and make surviving the holidays a little bit easier.

Generally, when the holidays are getting stressful, it can be useful to take some time for yourself when you can. Offer to get the groceries or run an errand to get out of the house. If you can, request an hour or two of a busy day to be alone. Little breaks can be reenergizing and healthy.

In short, the holidays are a stressful time for everyone, and adding returning home from college for a substantial amount of time only piles atop that stress. While you can’t always avoid holiday stress, there are some little things that can be done to keep at least some of the good vibes going.

Pallas Gutierrez is a Communication sophomore. They can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.