Maintaining Ties While Establishing Your Independence

College and Your Family: Maintaining Ties While Establishing Your Independence

College and Your Family: Maintaining Ties While Establishing Your Independence

College is a time when you start to break away from your family in substantial ways. This is a necessary but sometimes bumpy time in your life. Whether or not you're close to your siblings or parents, you could probably use some tips on navigating this change.

Help with Expenses

Most of the time, parents contribute to their child's college expenses. This may or may not be a significant amount of money, but either way, it can be tricky because it can feel as though it comes with strings attached. This could be in a big way, with your parents telling you what you must study, or it could come in smaller ways, with them overseeing your budget and making various restrictions. Some amount of supervision may not be unreasonable, and you may want to discuss this further with them.

Another thing to consider is taking out student loans. You may not have the credit history to get a private loan on your own, and even if you do, you may be able to get better interest rates with a cosigner. But this might be something your parents cannot or are not willing to do for you, or you may not want to ask them. At the same time, asking someone else for this level of repayment commitment can also be difficult since they will be responsible for the loan if you are unable to repay it. You can review a guide that can help you better understand what to consider and how to go about talking to people about this.

Living at Home

Living at home can be easier on you financially and make it easier to take care of your health on a busy schedule, but harder in other ways. It may be more difficult to establish your independence than if you moved out. There are a couple of different things to consider if you're planning to live at home while attending classes. One is that you should try to contribute to the household in some way. This might mean paying some rent, doing chores, or buying your own food. It's possible that you come from a family that just finds this culturally unacceptable, but as much as you can, you should try to help.

Another is that there may be tension between your desire for more independence and your parents right to control what happens under their own roof. If there is conflict between your lifestyle and what your parents want you to do, you might eventually want to move out even if it's costly. Some parents and their young adult children make the switch to a different relationship while living under the same roof relatively friction-free, but for others, it is more difficult.

Staying in Touch

If you're moving out, whether you're in the same town or on the other side of the country, you may want to have a talk with your parents and any siblings left at home about how much contact you'll have. If you're going to college nearby, try to resist the urge to head home every time you have a pile of dirty laundry, want a home cooked meal or are feeling down. It's okay to give into those urges sometimes, but you should also take this as an opportunity to learn the important life skills to deal with those situations yourself sometimes. Similarly, if you're used to contacting your parents whenever you have a decision to make, trying to hold off. You might want to set a certain weekly time to do video calls, even more so if you have younger siblings at home that you're close to. This provides a predictable way for you all to regularly reconnect.


You may want to think ahead of time about what kind of boundaries you want to set about the information you'll share or how involved you want your family to be in various aspects of your life. For example, will you talk to them about people you're seeing or problems you're having with friends or in class?


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