College classes and college relationships of all varieties often take up the majority of our time during our undergraduate (and even graduate!) degrees. For many people, in addition to juggling faculty communications, friendships, and romantic relationships, the difficulties of fitting family time into your life also need to find a space in your already-busy schedule. For many students, college is their first taste of living by themselves or with roommates their same age, which stands in stark contrast for many to the family structures they were raised in. It might be the first time in your life where you have to find yourself coordinating your schedule(s) with those of your close family members, especially if you’re the kind of family that likes to get together often.
But there are, of course, other factors that might make this balancing act more difficult. Family deaths, though joked about by some in academia, are very real events that can happen around the time one is college-aged. In my own experience, I’ve lost three dear family pets and my great-grandpa during university, and finding the time to grieve in a healthy way is difficult when there are assignments to get done and places to be.
Some students have even more responsibilities, perhaps needing to work part-time or even full-time to send money back to their families to support them. Others may not have a good relationship with their family and may need to worry about the family life they go home to during holidays or other occasions. Even more, sometimes the struggles your family is facing might affect your day-to-day life out of worry for them; if your family is facing big life changes like job loss, a move, or the like, it can be incredibly hard to make space for your own feelings about what is happening in addition to those of your family when you also have college work to get done.
There is no one-size-fits-all way to balance out these two things: some people are going to have very little family stress, but for others it may be a daily struggle. If you are grieving, I would suggest opening up some space in your schedule to allow yourself to go through the motions of grief in your own time, and try not to drown it out with all the essays you have due. If your family is a consistent source of stress for you because of things in their control and out of it, if you are able to talk to your family about these things, try doing so. If that’s not an avenue that you feel comfortable with, or if it is not open to you at all, finding support in your friends and found family, or even a therapist if that is a viable option for you, can be very helpful to sort through the complex feelings that family life can instill, both inside and outside of the college campus.
If you’re balancing a difficult or stressful family life, whether it’s consistent or a one-time change that is shaking up your family unit, know that you are not alone. It can be incredibly hard navigating a new independent life while still getting reports of what is going on at home, especially if something distressing is happening.
Some things that might help you while you deal with family stress could vary from grief journaling, stress relief meditations, or even finding a therapist to work through complex feelings. Make time and space for yourself to work through complex emotions, talk to those you care about, and remember that while family is important, it should not come at the cost of your mental health.