It’s 11:30 a.m. You open one eye, read the clock, and intentionally roll back over to sleep for a couple more hours in your nice, cozy, perfect bed that you missed more than you knew. Suddenly, you’re awakened by blinding light and the sound of your mom ripping open the shades with an ear-piercing “Rise and shine, honey!” It’s the same sound you heard every morning through high school, and now that you’re home for the summer it’s back to the ‘rents rules…or is it?
Moving back home for the summer after being away at school can be a very bittersweet situation. On the sweet side, you get to see your old friends, have your meals cooked for you, not worry about class, save money on rent, and – if you’re lucky – have your mom do your laundry! However, we all know there’s a bitter side as well.
Coming from school, where you pretty much did whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted, with whomever you wanted, it can be extremely difficult to suddenly have to follow rules and have your parents constantly checking up on you. Here are some tips for keeping the peace while at home, and maybe turning that bittersweet into purely a home sweet home.
On your drive home, or during study breaks the last week of classes (ugh!), try this little mental exercise suggested by author, keynote speaker, and mind/body/communication specialist Dr. Rick Brinkman.
Start off by picturing someone you admire or look up to. This person can be someone in your life, a celebrity or even a character, as long as it’s someone you feel is a good role model. After you’ve chosen your person, go through conflicts and arguments that you might have while at home. For example, you might recall your mom telling you when to get up, or your dad telling you to be home by 10 p.m.
Now imagine how your “role-model” would react in these situations by mentally putting yourself in their body and “being” them. Dr. Brinkman suggests doing this exercise multiple times with deep concentration.
“Repetition and intensity are what makes an association stick,” he says, explaining how if you really sit down and focus on these scenarios and how to react to them, you can actually “rewire” how you’d respond next time a potential conflict arose in real life.
Let’s try it.
Dad: “There better not be any drinking going on at this party you’re going to tonight, young lady.”
Wrong answer: “What?! Dad, please. At school I was wasted every night of the week. If I stop now, my body might go into shock withdrawal. See ya!”
Rewired answer: “Actually Father, over these past few months at school when I wasn’t studying for my classes, volunteering at the local Soup Kitchen, or helping old women carry their groceries, I attended some college get-togethers where alcohol was present, and you’d be happy to know that I could partake in consuming these beverages while still maintaining control over myself and being able to assess if I was in an unsafe situation. I hope you can trust that I will be able to handle myself similarly tonight.”
Okay. Too much? Maybe…Let’s do one more for practice.
Mom: “So, I was thinking, and I don’t want you bringing that Ron guy over here anymore. I don’t think it’s appropriate. And I don’t feel comfortable when you two go in the basement ‘to watch a movie’ for hours.”
Wrong answer: “Mom. Please. We’ve gotten hurt so many times trying to have sex in my car, and that couch down there is so spacious! The issue at hand is really just safety. Don’t you want me to be safe?”
Rewired answer: “Oh, Dearest Mother. Thank you for telling me how you feel! I suppose I’m just having a little trouble adjusting back home. I got so used to having so much privacy at school – I didn’t realize it bothered you! Here, let me call Ronald right now so the three of us can make a lunch date. He’s really quite a dapper fellow; I know you would adore him if given the chance! I’ll try not to be so exclusive with him all the time.”
Well…those may not be the exact words to flow out of your mouth, but you get the idea. In sum, “the more maturity and respect you show, the more you’ll get in return,” says Dr. Brinkman.
Let’s Have a Little Chat…
If after you’ve done your mental exercises you are still really nervous about being left with no privacy or freedom whatsoever, the best thing to do is to sit down with your parents and talk it out when you get home. Do this at the very beginning of the summer, so you can both share your expectations for each other and reach a compromise ahead of time.
“You might be surprised at how chill they've gotten since you left for college, and if not, you can have a thoughtful discussion about it in a non-pressure situation,” says Her Campus contributing writer Jessica Goldstein. “Way better than waiting until you're on your way out and want to extend curfew by several hours, and your parents are chillin’ in PJs like, ‘Um, no you cannot stay out until 4.’”
Her Campus contributing writer Betty Jin agrees that having a talk is a good idea. “It might be awkward, but they need to hear from the horse's mouth that you want more privacy and that the house isn't exactly a ‘nest’ like it used to be in high school.”
It’s also important to keep “triggers” in mind. No, I’m not talking about threatening your parents at gunpoint. That would not help the situation. I’m referring to the mental associations that, according to Dr. Brinkman, are triggered whenever you are home – similar to how a certain scent may trigger a memory, or a song may trigger a certain emotion.
Although you are getting older and are starting to think of yourself differently, to your mom and dad you are still “their little girl.” They know that while you’ve been away at college you’ve probably been doing a lot of things that they’d rather not know about, but now that they have you back home it’s easy for them to fall into old roles and place you in your old, child-like role as well.
These triggers may take some time to change and re-adjust, but by displaying acts of maturity and responsibility, “you can rediscover each other in a different way,” says Dr. Brinkman.
For example, if they’re worried about you staying out too late, reassure them throughout the night with a text or two that updates them on your plans and lets them know you’re okay. Tell them beforehand an estimate about what time you’ll be back. Basically, just take precautions to prevent them from worrying, so that the next time you want to go out, they won’t feel as strong of an urge to pace by the door until you come home!
Actions Really Do Speak Louder
Choosing to help out with some of the chores around the house also shows your maturity – after all, you are staying there for free, so you might as well help your parents out! You can make dinner for them one night, or unload the dishwasher before they actually tell you to do it. Betty agrees that this solution can help change old triggers. “Show some appreciation by chipping in – it's also a great way to show the 'rents that college has indeed made you a bit older and wiser.”
Being Seen With Your Parents Isn’t ‘Uncool’ Anymore!
“Take advantage of quality parent-child bonding time. Try not to think of it as a burden that you're home,” says Jessica.
This isn’t middle school. You shouldn’t have to cringe at the thought of going to the movies with your parents anymore (unless your dad is the guy that laughs way louder and longer than anyone else). Regardless, you should really embrace family time while you’re at home to have it. This will not only help you build a new, fresh chapter in your relationship with them, but it will also reassure them you’re becoming a responsible, independent adult.
If all else fails, just focus on following one, simple rule: Always tell the truth. That’s what is going to build the most trust in your relationship with your parents. Say you’ve had a history of trying to hide things from them; just look at this summer as a chance to start with a clean slate! Even if they take a little longer to feel comfortable with the “older, more mature you,” at least they’ll feel reassured that you aren’t lying to them all the time.
Good luck, brave Her Campus-readers, and enjoy your summer!
Dr. Rick Brinkman, Naturopathic mind/body Medicine specialist
Kathleen Corlett, Her Campus contributing writer
Betty Jin, Her Campus contributing writer
Jessica Goldstein, Her Campus contributing writer
Cassandra Potler, Her Campus contributing writer