While counting down the days until college, living under their roof can become super-stressful for both you and your parents. You may be nervous (normal) or ripe-and-ready to spread your wings, or maybe a bit of both. Meanwhile, your parents are equally nervous with the overwhelming urge to rein you in. It’s a touchy place, and bickering can turn this bittersweet time into just plain bitter. Plus, a rocky relationship with the ‘rents can make your transition to school, and school breaks thereafter, really freakin’ miserable.
To avoid turning your childhood home into a war zone, try these five ways to tame the tension and keep the peace:
1. Respect Their Rules
Your parents’ ground rules may reek of crazy-driving, big-bad-wolf paranoia. As psychotic as they (that is, both the rules and your parents) may be, you have limited power to change either at this point in the game. The best place to begin is by assuring your parents that you will respect whatever rules they set while you are living in their house, and make sure you mean it.
2. Negotiate, if Needed
If you find yourself nailed down by bogus rules that are really, truly affecting your quality of life at home, you may need to sit down with your parents for a serious heart-to-heart. But pick your battles.
For some parents, age ain’t nothin’ but a number, so you’ll need to explain, citing concrete examples, the many ways you have matured and outgrown the standing household rules.
Rationality will go a long way in your negotiations. For example, you may be able to extend your curfew by assuring your parents that they really don’t need to be awake when you go to bed. Also, explain your reasoning: You want to take greater personal responsibility when going out so you can get accustomed to a more adult routine.
Most important, don’t make the mistake of letting this conversation get out of hand, since raising your voice, whining or showing disrespect of any kind could make all your efforts for naught.
3. Lend a Hand
Nothing irritates a parent more than dealing with a kid who claims to be an adult and doesn’t act like one. Cleaning up after yourself (i.e., making your own bed for a change and doing your own laundry) will show that you are capable of taking care of yourself. This will give you practice and them relief.
Although chores may be the last thing you feel like doing, giving a helping hand now may serve useful later when you’re reaching out with an open, empty hand (for more cash), trust us. So, without being asked, take out the trash and build some goodwill with your parents. Bonus: They may be more likely to extend extra privileges.
4. Make Suppertime Civil
Even if you’re seriously over those drawn-out, hectic family dinners complete with nagging parents, crazy siblings and long periods of unpleasant silence (or just more of aforementioned nagging), where there’s a will, there’s a way to make mealtime less painful. It may seem simple, but making an effort to engage with your family might make time spent with them more pleasant. Try asking your family members about their lives and actually listening to their answers. And don’t be too surprised if you find that you begin to enjoy family time, since tension often stems from the truth: You’re really going to miss everyone. If not, your genuine effort won’t be in vain. Good behavior may give you grounds to excuse yourself next time the early-bird special coincides with your evening itinerary.
5. Give up on the Grudge
Rebuilding relationships from afar is easier said than done, so you’ll want to smooth over any rough patches between you and your parents before you leave. A simple “sorry I’ve been such a pain/brat/bully” goes a long way when making amends. At the very least, try to understand that seeing their kid leave for college makes your parents feel all old and vulnerable and that it’s not an easy time for them either.
By Eric Pilch for The Real College Guide