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Winter break is officially beginning, meaning millions of college students will be returning to their family’s house. While at college, students gain a sense of independence not always found when living with parents. This lack of independence and personal space can feel suffocating, so here are four ways to take care of yourself when home for the break. 

Designate alone time

Just like in college, you need time spent alone. Running a hot bath or going on a run are great ways to subtly let your family know that you are spending time alone. When you set the boundaries and expect alone time, you show your family that you are an adult who enjoys spending time alone, just like everyone else. 

Meet up with friends

Meeting with friends gives you a chance to continue habits that you had from college. Following COVID-19 guidelines, meeting with friends from your hometown or driving to meet up with friends from college gives you the opportunity to leave the house and see different people. 

If getting out of the house isn’t an accessible option, consider video chatting with friends. Planning fun dinner dates and game nights via Zoom or FaceTime are great ways to keep strong bonds with friends from college.

Be upfront

If your family does not take subtle hints gracefully, you might need to lay the ground. Letting your parents and family members know that you need space allows an adult conversation to occur. You are an adult, your feelings are valid, but your parents or other family members may not think that way. Reminding them that you are used to spending time alone and going about your day to your personal schedule reiterates that you are an adult.

Plan things to do with family

​Just like designating alone time, having planned moments for family time can help make returning for the holidays more fun. Having a movie night, nightly dinners, family walks, or trips to the mall are great ways to bond with your family. This also lets your family know that you are still interested in spending time with them and that you care. If things get out of control while at a planned family event, take a couple minutes to think about the situation and understand that your parents and siblings may have not been together for the past couple of months and are likely used to interactions pre-college. 

Understand that your family missed you while you were away at college, and nothing can change that. Being upfront and setting expectations around personal space allows you to continue habits you have gained while away at college, even if it was completely online. 

Adrian is an undergraduate student studying journalism at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo.
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