"Please leave me alone. I need my space." -Said every teenager who's ever lived
The lemon sorbet-colored walls of my childhood bedroom that I strategically matched to my Urban Outfitters floral duvet cover are a sure fire way to bring me straight back to living at home during my high school days. For some, it might be the band posters, drawers full of clothes you probably should’ve donated, baseball/basketball card collections, or shelves of tournament trophies. I can’t tell you what it is exactly, but something about returning to that space gives me a flood of mixed emotions from the years I grew up there.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a plethora of challenges, but for a lot of you college students and young adults, returning home to live with your parents has become a unique reality. In other circumstances, the stay at home would be planned in advance, with a general timeline of how long you’re planning on staying. Instead, the year got cut short, and now you’re attending online school, filling out job applications, or taking work calls in your high school time capsule of a room until who knows when. Not to mention having to readapt to living at home with your parents again...
And ha, don’t worry, parents - I didn’t forget about you! I know having another human in your house to feed, another person to include in your plans, and another personality/mood to deal with again is also an adjustment. It can be easy for the kids to say they might not be the most excited to move back home, but did anyone ask how you also feel about it?
That being said, I wanted to compile a short list of some common “grievances” or adjustments heard from students/young adults, while also giving some airtime for the parental perspective we all need.
I know the concept of “privacy” can be tough because you own the house, but maybe consider limiting how often you enter into your kid’s room unannounced. Especially when they might be having a conversation with friends, prepping for a work call or interview, or trying to take an exam. The stakes are a bit higher than when they were in high school - at best embarrassing, at worst detrimental to their grade during proctored exams with their cameras or mics on.
Dear Students/Young Adults,
I know you’re still adjusting to what it looks like to get a handle on time management. And no, procrastinating until the night before and chugging Yerba Mate or Red Bull doesn’t qualify as good time management. There’s a good chance parents might want to check in on you to make sure you’re getting all your work done and even waking up for class on time. Staying up until 3 a.m. watching TikToks and not leaving your room/starting your day until 2:30 p.m. the next day isn’t always a great way to prove to your parents you understand how to manage your time. Also, your parents might just want to say hi and chat because they like having you around (so sweet!)
Since living on their own pre-pandemic, your student/young adult has become used to a certain amount of freedom in their schedules, whether that’s who they spend time with, activities they participate in, what and when they choose to eat, etc. It can be tough because although they’re back in the family home, they’re no longer the high school students they were when they left. It’s definitely an adjustment to having to check in often and have to be mindful of how their schedule affects yours.
Dear Students/Young Adults,
The world isn’t quite as much of your oyster as it has been and ignorance is no longer bliss. In the midst of not only living together, but quarantining together, parents knowing who you’re seeing and where you’re going if you’re going out is important for everyone’s safety. Sure, limiting your outings doesn’t sound super fun, but also, your parents want to make sure you’re safe and might also want to spend quality time together while you’re back home??
Believe it or not, kids don’t fully resent chores. Oftentimes, they’re willing to take out the trash, wash the dishes, clear their space, etc. but on their own time and when it’s convenient in their schedule. It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but when they’re trying to get homework done or catching up with friends, it can be cause them to be deeply unmotivated to help when they’re asked at an inconvenient time. If they’re not doing anything on their own accord and not contributing, then I give you full permission to keep reminding them (not that you need my permission…… please don’t ground me).
Dear Students/Young Adults,
I get that it can be frustrating to be asked to do additional chores around the house when you’re juggling school/work/friends, but also you living “rent free” isn’t metaphorical in your parents’ heads, you might literally be living rent free. You should try to be proactive in pulling your own weight and contribute, whether that’s offering to go grocery shopping, cooking a meal once a week, cleaning the dishes when someone else cooks, etc. Helping around the house can be a way to show your appreciation (and also get some solid brownie points).
Living under the same roof again can present a variety of challenges, especially with the unique regression to old family dynamics in the home. For both parents and students/young adults, it’s easy to slip into old roles that were held during students’ high school years, especially if that was the last time that you all were living together. For those moving back in, there might be a gap between who you were when you left and who you are as you’re returning. The best we can offer is some healthy perspective and some nods toward establishing some boundaries between the two parties who are continuing to learn how to navigate this terrain.
And we know that it’s not all bad - hard to complain about the delicious meals, laundry, additional space, extra hands to help around the house, fewer room/board bills to pay, and quality family time. The optimist in me believes this could be a good thing. Getting to connect as a family unit, understanding a bit more about each other, and even learning from one another is truly priceless. Even if that means having to be reminded of my questionable design choices from 2011, I'll still gladly take it.