Creating Boundaries With your Family

Student Life

As campuses and dorms close across the country, many students find themselves moving home prematurely. Even those who have their own housing off-campus have elected to stay in their childhood homes. JMU students are displaced all around the country, and many are discovering a new issue they have to overcome: adjusting to living at home after spending so much time away.  


Regardless of your year, it’s difficult to transition back to living in a house with your family. Going away to college affords students with newfound independence and freedom which can be severely limited upon returning home.  This coupled with the “shelter-in-place” order announced in many states seems like the perfect recipe for conflict between family members. But this doesn’t have to be a stressful time. Taking the necessary steps to create clear boundaries with your family members is an essential component of transitioning to life at home and making this uncertain experience as stress-free as possible. 



The most important step to creating boundaries with your family members is clear and open communication. No one can be expected to know what someone else is thinking, and the same logic applies to this scenario. Your parents won’t know what kind of treatment or space you’ll need unless you tell them and vice versa. Try to reach an understanding of how you’d like to operate while home and what kind of limitations there might or should be given the current circumstances. Maybe you need more time for yourself than you did in the past and would like to be left alone most of the day. Perhaps you need a quiet workspace for completing coursework and would like minimal distraction. These and more are points that should be brought up in a healthy back-and-forth discussion. 


Maintaining Independence 

It’s no secret that students lead very different lives during college than they did in high school. One of the key components of a college experience is the new level of independence you gain by living away from your family. For some students it might be important to hold onto some of that newfound freedom in order to maintain a level of normalcy. And even though you’re confined to the indoors there are still ways to maintain a somewhat independent existence. Schedule some personal time for yourself each day that can be filled with any activity you’d like: read a book, watch a movie you’ve been wanting to see, or listen to music, just as long as you take that time for yourself. This is also a topic that should be discussed openly with the members of your household so as not to create any confusion or hurt feelings. 



Connecting with Family 

Though it might be frustrating to be back home, it’s still important to spend time with and connect with your family. Take some time to come up with a list of things you might like to do together, even if it’s as simple as sitting down to a family dinner a few times a week. More involved activities can include something like a board game or video game, if you have the means. If you have a sibling, or siblings, come up with a project or activity that involves all of you. This will depend greatly on what kinds of activities you all like but get creative if you can. Maybe try something you’ve never done before. It can be a good way to combat loneliness as well. One of the benefits of being home is that you’ll always have someone to talk to if you need it. 



It’s important to remember that your family just wants the best for you during these trying times. Keeping your loved ones healthy and safe should be the number one priority, but that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain some of your college habits and life along the way. Start the dialogue with your family and see what works for you going forward. 

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Published: Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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