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Dear Heartbeat,

The holidays are always a tough time for me. I don’t get along well with my parents and whenever I visit my hometown, we always end up fighting about things I don’t think are trivial, but they claim otherwise. My siblings don’t help either. They are very close, so I feel like the ugly duckling in the family. I feel like I’ve built a life here with my friends and I don’t want to have to say goodbye to them, even for a little while. This has also caused problems in the past. I’ll text and Snapchat my friends to stay sane, and then fight with my parents because they say I’m not “being present.” For my own peace of mind, how can I survive a trip back to my parent’s house?

Sincerely,
Ugly Duckling

 

Dear Ugly Duckling,

Fighting with your parents doesn’t exactly sound like staying sane to me. It’s worth asking yourself, “What is causing these fights?” If the sole cause of conflict is your unwillingness to drop the phone in situations that require it, then there’s your solution right there: drop it, and be willing to suffer for an hour or three. Later, you can go back to Snapchat once you have some time to yourself. There is room for both family time and virtual communication during the holidays.

It sounds to me like there’s a little more to these issues than just that though, so let’s dig a bit deeper. You say you feel isolated at home, and that you prefer your friends to your family, which is a completely valid way to feel as a college student. These are your first few years gaining independence from your family, and that comes with some growing pains. Consider what your parents are struggling with: they’re used to having you in their nest, but now they’ve set you free – I’m assuming with some difficulty. Having you back at home must be a jarring experience for them. They will eventually have to  realize you are not the same person you were when you lived at home – it’s your responsibility to show them that you are a different and more mature person now than you were before college. 

When you go home, I think you should swallow some pride, as difficult as that may be, and make an effort to show some goodwill on their terms. If they tell you to leave your phone in your room, just do it. As a matter of fact, be the one who offers to do that before they ask – that’s a surefire way to avoid that specific conflict.

Discuss your issues with them, try to explain your point of view while also listening to theirs and together try to come up with some strategies to avoid any large blow-ups you see coming.  Remember, your parents are on your side, so they will be willing to help you as long as you are willing to listen to their suggestions.

Maybe your siblings are a place to start: ask your parents to sit down and talk about your relationship with your brothers and sisters, and listen to any advice they might be able to offer. At the end of the day, you might be an independent person, but they’re independent people too and have been for a lot longer than you have.  That’s something worth respecting. 

-Jonathan


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