I am working with a college student, a 20-year-old sophomore majoring in education, who is currently sheltering-in-place back at her family’s home. We were in the middle of a teletherapy session last week when her father walked into her room to ask her a question. My client let out a startled “Daaaaaaaad!” and quickly shut her laptop so he couldn’t see me – her parents don’t know she is in therapy.
Thankfully, we were able to resume the session and my client found it mostly comical, but it brought up a good point. How complicated is it to be an adult with every right to independently choose to be in therapy and expect privacy during your sessions, but try to do that while back in your childhood bedroom in your parents’ home?
When we talk about young adults and the pandemic, there has been a focus on the grief and loss of important events such as graduation and sports seasons. Yet many college students have lost more than in-person classes, their campus social life, or their workout routine – they’ve lost their autonomy.
↑ Jordan Skalisky is a member of the Joon therapist team. This video is an excerpt from our recent webinar on navigating these uncertain times together.
College is the first time many young adults are given full direction over their own lives, and for the first time they have started to become self-sufficient. Imagine having a full course load, a full-time job, your own apartment, and the ability to do what you want, when you want. Now imagine that, overnight, suddenly you have to move back in with your parents and stay as far away from your friends as possible. But you still need to manage that course load and the full-time job, but now you need to do it all online (which no one has showed you how to do and you were not prepared for) and from your childhood home.
At home, roles are very different. While at college you may be an independent adult managing your own schedule your own way, at home you may be treated like the younger teen you were the last time you lived there regularly. Expected to participate in family meals, do house chores, and help with siblings.
As a result, college students are having to balance the independence they gained at college while stepping back into the role of the child in the house – for a forced and unknown amount of time. Add in the pressure of living through a pandemic, and it’s no wonder college students may be showing many signs of stress right now—unhappiness, low motivation, tension, restlessness – you name it.
What can you do? Whether you’re a parent or a college student, talk to the people you’re living with about how it feels to be living together right now.
What are the expectations of living back in the home? What was the routine when they were at college, what are the biggest changes, and how is everyone coping with the adjustment? Where can they work, uninterrupted, in the home for online classes? What are appropriate expectations for an adult child living at home? How can everyone honor each other’s privacy?
These conversations can often be challenging and easy to avoid, especially right now—and they’re often the discussions that can help us understand what’s bothering us the most and how we can help ease each other’s burden.