Young White woman in blue sweater with hands on head, mom behind arms crossed

3 Tips to Maintain Healthy Family Relationships in College

Navigating your life at college and relationships at home can be tough. Here are three key ways to maintain a healthy balance between your life and family ties.

When it comes to moving to college, often anticipated are the roommate arrangements and class schedules, the dorm decorations and social re-evaluations. Not so often thought of are the inevitable changes in family dynamics that come with you moving away from home, likely for the first time. After spending some time on your own—with more freedom and changed responsibilities—returning home can be difficult. So can even just talking on the phone. 

Your new distance can reinforce a need for privacy and respect on behalf of both you and your family members, bringing to light boundaries that need to be set and conversations that need to be had. Preparing for this can be tough, but if you don’t want to tear down your support systems, it‘s important to do. Here’s how. 

1. Set emotional boundaries

With time for discussion (meaning, don’t throw this at your family minutes before your plane takes off), ask to talk about the boundaries that will be set when you’re in school. While it can seem like the right thing to indulge someone’s desire and promise to call every day, establishing the expectation that there will be no distance created between you and your loved ones by keeping constant contact isn’t going to help anyone. Find a balance between what everyone wants and needs from each other, and be sure that all parties understand. Perhaps a biweekly or weekly phone call will suffice.

During those phone calls, your family may expect you to share every detail of your college life, or they might try to enforce rules they no longer need to. If you plan on going out every night (though I wouldn’t recommend it), you don’t need to tell your family. However, be careful about outright lying, as it will only make your relationships more difficult to navigate. Establishing with your loved ones that the time you spend away belongs entirely to you should help draw these difficult lines in the sand.

Related: How to Manage Emotions During Tumultuous Times

2. Set physical boundaries

It’s also important to set physical boundaries in whatever way your situation warrants. If you’ll be home on weekends, decide if your room is an open space or will continue to be private. If you’ll be visiting for holidays, try to dive into what that will look like—will the same rules you followed throughout high school still apply? Or will you be treated more like a house guest? Setting these boundaries will smooth everything out and establish an independence that distance alone can’t. The same goes for visits the other way; be sure to establish when and how often it’s appropriate for your family to visit you on campus.

3. Dissect your finances 

Whatever the financial situation you’re emerging from or entering into, you need to talk it out. If your parents will be providing you monetary support for school or while at school, it’s likely there will be restrictions on the way it’s spent. Creating a clear, honest budget and sticking to it will not only build trust and help you navigate college life but also prepare you for the future when you’re financially independent.

If you’ll be providing money to your family while in college, be sure to explain your limits as a student. If possible, don’t trap yourself under the financial pressures of your family, and seek out assistance from financial and academic advisors if you aren’t sure how to best approach the issue. Whatever the situation, college is expensive, and coming to an understanding about where finances will be coming from and going to will do nothing but good.

Related: Parents, It’s Time to Communicate About College Costs 

The transition to college life can be rocky in many ways, so getting a head start on facing the issues between family is extremely important and must be taken just as seriously (if not more so) as the final verdict on whether or not you’re getting a mini-fridge.

Find more great advice to help you get through college in our Student Life section—much of it is written by students like you!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:

About Natalie Johnson

Natalie Johnson

Natalie Johnson is a film student and writer, doing her best to avoid a lifetime of debt. You can find her digging through CollegeXpress for scholarships or working on her art at eilatancreations.com.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Mimi

Mimi

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has provided me with tips that were for college students, but as a high school junior, they were still very useful. Not only that, it also gave me an idea of what to expect when it comes to going to college or already being in college. I want to say thank you to CollegeXpress, and I hope you continue the wonderful tips until I hopefully get into college and throughout my college journey.

Bri'Yana Brown-Dunn

Bri'Yana Brown-Dunn

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me gain interest in many colleges/universities and many scholarships. I would say the most helpful thing CollegeXpress has done for me is sending me emails that tell me certain types of colleges are interested in me as well as emails about scholarships that I can look at and possibly apply for.

Courtney Smith

Courtney Smith

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has been a huge help! The website is very organized with finding the right scholarship for anyone and anything. With CollegeXpress, I've been able to find many scholarship opportunities to apply for. Not only that, I'm also able to search for the colleges I have interest in and see what’s required and what scholarships they offer. I've learned a lot from CollegeXpress. They've helped me in many ways to achieve my goals!

Jenna

Jenna

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me greatly during my college search. I used their college search feature often and it helped in comparing schools I was looking at. Now that I’ve found a college the scholarship search feature is helping me find a way to find my college experience. CollegeXpress has many helpful features and resources for anyones college search, it truly is a wonderful tool for anyone entering college level!

Lorena Bacallao

Lorena Bacallao

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress was the foundation of my college search process. Because of CollegeXpress, I was able to make a more informed and confident decision as to where it was best to pursue my higher education. I have recommended this website to fellow peers and for first-generation students like me. It’s a website I will continue to promote because of how simple it was to use and how many opportunities were offered to me at my fingertips!

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Gonzaga University

Spokane, WA

SUNY Maritime College

Throggs Neck, NY