Staying Sane While Living at Home

As the excitement and euphoria of college graduation slowly starts to fade and reality starts to encroach, many newly minted college graduates are finding themselves returning home to live with their parents. Whether you are staying with your parents while attending graduate school or searching for a job, this situation can help you get some financial security before you set out on your own. However, living with parents after college can also bring its own headaches, hassles, and stresses. To help you negotiate potential landmines, here are four tips to keep in mind.

Discuss Ground Rules and Guidelines: When moving back home after college, it can be easy for you and your parents to have differing sets of expectations. While your parents might assume that the rules from your high school days still apply, you might still be in college mode, where you come and go as you please and keep your room as neat (or messy) as you like. These opposing views can cause tension and resentment to build, which makes for a less than ideal living situation. To keep this from happening, sit down with your parents and come to an agreement regarding the rules and expectations you both need to adhere to while you are living with them.

Contribute: At first, this tip might seem counterintuitive since you are probably living at home because you are trying to save money. However, this is a very important step, since it can help establish your identity as an adult, and it assures your parents that you are not taking their hospitality for granted. Your discussion about rules and expectations is a perfect time to talk about ways you might contribute to the household. If money is very tight or if your parents are reluctant to have you pay them rent, you might offer to contribute by doing certain chores, such as doing the dishes after dinner, mowing the lawn or chauffeuring your younger siblings to their activities several days a week.

Be Productive: Perhaps living at home makes you envision a never-ending weekend, where you get to stay up late, sleep in, and watch television while indulging in junk food. Although this is okay once in a while, doing this day after day is a sure way to drive your parents (and yourself) crazy. You will be a lot happier if you use your reprieve from the real world wisely by actively applying for jobs, studying, or learning new life skills. Angela, a recent Oberlin graduate who is spending the summer at home while job hunting, agrees: “I definitely advocate thinking of something you’d like to do–either for personal fulfillment or for career reasons–and pursuing that while you’re searching for a job. Even though you’re not working, you still feel productive and active. For me, that something has been learning how to become a better writer by reading books about writing and even pursuing forms of storytelling outside of printed media (such as listening to This American Life, or writing down notable things other people say). Doing these things has given me a sense of direction and purpose, without which I know I would be feeling stir-crazy.”

Additionally, consider doing some of your work outside of the house. A change in scenery as simple as going to the local coffee shop or library can make you more productive and encourage you to make the most of your time.

Set an End Date: As comforting as it can be to live at home, giving you and your parents a deadline can be very helpful. This establishes the expectation that this is a temporary arrangement rather than an interminable situation, which can be reassuring to everyone involved. Having a move-out date, even if it is tentative, can also motivate you to set and accomplish goals to help you meet this deadline and move on to another stage in life.

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