For many students, December break is the first time that they are going home to visit family since starting college. Returning home can bring up a lot of unexpected feelings and issues. Being back in one’s hometown with family members is often a big adjustment.

A New Normal

You have learned and grown during this last semester. It can be difficult to notice personal growth until we are back in familiar places and with familiar people. Your parents and siblings may need to adjust to your new normal, and assume that you haven’t changed since leaving home. You have also experienced big lifestyle changes while living on campus in a new city. The freedom of choosing your own routine can make living at home again feel restrictive.

Personally, your worldview and beliefs may have been challenged as you have met new people and learned new things. It can be frustrating to see your family and hometown in a new light. While meeting up with old friends from high school, you might fall back into old patterns that feel comfortable and supportive, or you might see your old friendships differently. Remember that it takes some time to settle into old relationships and learn the new dance of adulthood. Your parents and relatives are learning too!

Holiday expectations

Everyone’s family and culture is different. There are often lofty expectations around the holiday season. Financially, it can be stressful to feel the need to keep up with people who spend a lot of money on gifts. Consider giving homemade presents that will fit your college budget, or plan activities that you can do with family members instead.

When you arrive home, your friends and family might expect you to spend all of time with them. It can feel overwhelming when you feel obligated to visit everyone in a short amount of time. Prepare to be frustrated explaining your classes or the weather in Portland to 50 different family members, but remember that they care about you and are just curious about your new life.

You need time to recharge

Sleep deprivation is real. After finals week, you will need to catch up on sleep when you get home. There might be other things to catch up on too – laundry, getting in all of the vegetables and protein that you missed, and just relaxing. While you might have grand plans to see old friends and visit your entire extended family, you will need time to adjust and recharge. Give yourself permission to sleep in, and spend time in your pjs watching Netflix or snuggling with the family pet. After a full semester of college, self-care is essential. This is YOUR break, do what you need to prepare for next semester!