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Going home for Thanksgiving Break? Read this first.

November 20, 2013

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The weeks you’ve spent at UVM since August may seem to have flown by, but you’ve likely gained a whole new sense of independence and responsibility. Moving back in with family for a few days may feel cozy – and a bit awkward.

You are, possibly for the first time, in a position of having total control over every minute of your day. And your family is, possibly for the first time, in the position of having no ability to monitor your actions – or help you.

Add stress and distance to the mix, and it has all the makings for a communication breakdown. But there’s good news: you can help communication flow smoothly by setting a calm and mature tone.

Here are some tips for that post-turkey talk:

If you need to deliver news your family won’t like to hear (perhaps you failed a test or a class; or you got in trouble):

SAY THIS: “Do you have a minute to talk? Actually, to let me talk for a few minutes first? I just want to get it all out there before you react.”

DO THIS: Share what happened and acknowledge your role or responsibility for it. If you do, there will be no blaming questions that put you on the defensive. Remember to talk about what comes next. Will you get a tutor? Repeat the class? Go through a judicial process?

DO NOT DO THIS: Fail to share vital information with people who should know about it.

If you’re making plans that your family won’t be expecting:

SAY THIS: “I know I was planning to come home for Winter Break, but I wanted to talk to you about going to (other place) with (other person/people). I have thought about it a lot, and I would miss not being home, but I’ll be home three weeks later for Winter Break. I’d really like to be able to do this.”

DO NOT SAY THIS: “Hey, I’m going to New York for Winter Break with some people on my floor.”

If you’re telling your family why you don’t communicate as frequently or aren’t always available, or explaining why it feels like conversations are often tense:

SAY THIS: “I feel like we’re talking but there’s still tension. What’s really going on? Are you OK?”

DO THIS: Taking a mature stance is your best option. Helping people – yes, even your family – to take a step back and think about what’s really bothering them can help communication get back to normal.

DO NOT SAY THIS: “Why are you freaking out all the time?”

Changing the way you communicate with your family takes some practice – for you, and for them. Consider talking with an RA, an advisor, or a counselor if you want to think through larger communication issues or try out different ways of asserting your independence while respecting the fact that you’re part of a larger family unit where changes to formerly-usual communication patterns may be difficult.

Bottom line: There’s no better time to start. Just remember not to talk with your mouth full.