Advice for Coming Home During the Holidays

The holiday season means that many college students (like myself) will be returning home so that they may spend some time with family before the semester starts up again. If it’s your first time coming back after a long period of being away, you might be surprised by how things have changed.

The place you remember as home isn’t the same, and it’s because you’re not the same and neither are the people you. Your family is different, the people you once knew are different, even your favorite places aren’t the same. It might feel a little alien at first, but this place is home and you’ll be here for a little while.

As someone who is very attached to my family and my hometown, I wanted to share my advice. I know the feeling of coming home and feeling an unpleasant mixture of emotions. Another thing I also know is that when I get back to my life, I am going to miss my family and the quaint small town, so I have to make the most of it while I can. 

Conversing with Parents

One of my biggest struggles with being home is that my parents and I have a sort of power struggle, no matter how many times I come home. It always happens, sometimes over different things, sometimes over the same ones.

For you, you’ve been out at college making your own life. You’ve gotten used to having space where you make your own rule, had the opportunity to meet new people, and most of all, you’ve had the chance to make some mistakes and grow from it.

A selfie of me, my sisters, and my beautiful mother.
A selfie of me, my sisters, and my beautiful mother.

In this short time away, you’ve had the chance to transition into the young adult phase. I’m 21, and I’ve had the opportunity to learn that one mistake isn’t the end of the world. 

This isn’t a problem until I come home.

My family, on the other hand, has gotten used to me being away for long periods of time. The results is that when I am home, they go back to treating me like I am the child who cried on my first day of preschool. They’re parents, and the thing about parents is that they will always think of you as their child.

It will happen no matter how old you are. And since you’re in their house, they will be trying to enforce things like rules and curfew.

This might be a bit hard and frustrating to hear this, but they do have every right to do this. That’s what they’re used to, and since they weren’t necessarily around while you were making mistakes, they don’t know how much you’ve grown. It might be something you need to explain to them, or show them.

What I advise is to pick your battles carefully, and if you find something really unfair, sit down with your parents and talk through how you feel. It might not always result in you getting what you want, but it shows your parents a certain level of respect and maturity, which could result in them being more lenient on some things.

Spending Time with Family

People love their families. I know I do. That does not mean that they do not occasionally cause me to grind my teeth together with their questions. Sometimes it seems like I end up getting the same questions over and over again, which gets just as annoying as the questions themselves. The questions usually go along the lines of “Are you still single?” and “Do you know what you’re doing after college?”

A selfie of me and my sisters on a sunny day.
A selfie of me and my sisters on a sunny day.

My advice? First, take the time to breathe and think through your answer, because you initial answer will either come from a place of pain, surprise, or irritation depending on how many times you heard the question that day. After taking the second to think about your answer, smile and share it. This is your family: they are asking because they love you and want the best for you.

If you want some more in-depth advice, I wrote some for HerCampus in an article titled “Thanksgiving 101: How to Answer Awkward Questions“. Original, I wrote it for going home for Thanksgiving (obviously), but I feel like it can really be applied beyond that to anytime your family starts asking questions.

Reconnecting with Old Friends

Another thing about coming home is that you’ll run into old faces, whether it was a classmate from high school or a former co-worker. This might happen because you planned it, but sometimes it’s unexpected.

My dog Damian and his stuffed pig Pua staring at the camera. He's probably thinking, "Oh, you're home again."
Damian’s thoughts: Oh, you’re home again.

For this, I would say manage your expectations. You’ve been away, and you’ve changed, so obviously these people have too. The people you once knew are different, whether they are doing other things, and you may have an awkward run-in with some of them.

Take things in stride. If you want to make plans, throw them a line, but don’t be offended when they don’t take it. People grow and change, and some people grow apart. It’s a part of life.

Home Sweet Home, Right?

In the end, you’re home because you chose to be. Make the most of it before you have to return to the stressful life, because once we get into real adulthood, we won’t be able to enjoy long breaks like this. Or at least, it might not be on paid vacation.

My family and I in traditional Vietnamese dresses.
My family and I in traditional Vietnamese dresses.

Make the most of your time at home. Carve out time to spend with family, meet up with your friends, visit all the local things that you miss. It might feel like forever in the moment, but that moment is gone the second you think about it.