Many would consider college to be the ultimate representation of freedom: the first true liberation from home. It only makes sense that conflicts would arise when students return home for breaks and visits. More often than not, this is exactly what happens.
On April 13, the University at Buffalo's Life and Learning center, in association with the Counseling Center, organized a seminar on how to negotiate changing family rules when students are home for breaks. It was hosted by the interns at the Counseling Center who offer free psychological services to students and faculty at UB.
The seminar was conducted because of the surge in students who came to the Counseling Center with problems relating to familial ties and their new roles in their parents' households.
According to lecturer Matt Gilbert, a pre-doctoral psychology student interning at the Counseling Center, many students don't know how to cope with returning home after being away and free at college.
"On the outside, it seems like a mild and fairly uncommon issue among students," Gilbert said. "But the truth is, so many students don't know how to deal with going back home and basically re-learning how to see your parents as peers as opposed to ‘parents', in the sense of the word."
The seminar started out addressing what students expect from going home for only a short period of time after tasting the independence of college life. They prompted fluid discussions about students' expectations, how they expected to be treated and how they felt about going home.
When asked open-ended questions, students primarily voiced their opinions about their expectations when going home. These ranged from receiving free meals, hoping their laundry was done for them to expecting to be treated as an adult.
Common situations such as not having a room to sleep in anymore, more or fewer members living in the same household and communication breakdowns with authority figures were discussed, and possible remedies were posed.
"The session is held more or less on a regular basis around school breaks, [around the time] when students would typically go home," Gilbert said. "It also heavily relies on the frequency of students who come to the center with similar dilemmas. We place emphasis on communication skills and negotiation patterns among parents and their children."
What is supposed to be a time of relaxation can actually become quite streeful.
"Ironically, even though breaks are meant for students to have time to rest and recuperate for the next semester, familial issues and just going back to live with your parents can pose as a significant source of stress for the most of us," Gilbert said.
Part of UB's 2020 plan makes the campuses more conducive to academics and all-around personal development.
"UB barely gives us any days off from class. We need every spare second we can grab to de-stress," said Ashley Greuschow, a junior English major. "You assume that going home will be relaxing but all these issues you never knew you had start to crop up. It's like this for most of us and this seminar reassured me that it wasn't just me that had these problems."
The lecture gave students some tips for coping with the common struggles of returning home. One of the main ideas stressed was letting the process of being looked at as an adult take its time. Many times, re-adjusting to being home can be hard on both the student and the parents.
"Students have to realize that the best way to get your parents to see you as a peer and treat you as an individual is practice, just as you would do with anything else," said Valarie Fatta, a graduate social work student who also led the discussion, said.
The program ended optimistically, as the discussion shifted ultimately to the perks of a parent's inherent need for babying.
"Our parents will never see us as anything but their children. But the trick is to make them see us as their grown-up children," Fatta said. "If every time you go home you talk to your parents like another adult would, sooner or later they'll be more than happy to treat you as one too."