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Back home with your parents? Here are some tips for sharing space again

When I left my apartment near Syracuse University last month for spring break, I was only supposed to stop at my parent's house for one day before flying off to sunny Mexico City. But as the coronavirus situation became drastically worse in the days leading up to my trip and because of a growing fear that the U.S.-Mexico border would close, I canceled my trip and decided to ride out the pandemic at my childhood home.

Being back home can be great, there's a level of comfort that is especially welcome during these uncertain times. But for college students who have been forced to leave their campuses or millennials fleeing their apartments to return home, it can be challenging to exchange the freedom of living on your own for the rules of living with your parents.

Here are some tips to make the transition as smooth as can be.

Schedules are key

If you still have online classes or conference calls for work, establishing a family work schedule is a must. The last thing you want is your parents or siblings bursting in on you, or you interrupting your parents, during the middle of an important Zoom call. To keep a peaceful family dynamic, it's necessary to designate times for using a part of the house for work, respecting when someone is busy with class/work and unable to step away and acknowledging that everyone needs time alone.

Stick to your regular routine

Normally we only return to our parent's houses for vacations and holidays, so it's easy to think of this as a vacation too. You may find it difficult to follow your normal routines. But as Dr. Russell G. Buhr told The New York Times, “Trying to preserve some sense of normalcy is really important for people’s well-being.” Mom's cooking is a treat, but if you find yourself eating more unhealthily than you normally would, buy your own groceries and cook the meals you would eat if you were in your own home. Even though gyms are closed, there are hundreds of home workouts available for free online as well as apps for meditation and yoga (plus adult coloring books, which have become a favorite of mine) to continue taking care of your physical and mental health.

Do your part

Because you and potentially significant others or siblings are moving back home, there will be extra dishes, laundry, cleaning and shopping to do. Even though it's your childhood home, don't act like a child. Make sure you're keeping up with your chores just as you (hopefully) would at your own home. Your parents are glad to see you but aren't necessarily willing to babysit you.

Maintain personal freedoms

Even though you're moving "home," it may not feel like it for some. Parents calling you from across the house, being asked to help with chores while you're trying to work and being guilted into family time when you just want to be alone can create additional stress or potential conflict. Conversely, if your parents are used to an empty nest, it may take some time before they're used to having kids in the house again. A conversation about setting boundaries and being clear about the amount of "me time" everyone needs will keep everyone happy in the long run.

Try new things together 

Work talk aside, if you're going to be spending the pandemic with your parents, you should have fun with it. Teach them about the latest pop-culture references. Share what you've been reading, watching, listening to or doing lately. Take up a new activity that none of you have done before and try it as a family. During the pandemic, my dad and I have been bingeing shows that neither of us has seen before and, since we both play the drums, teaching each other what grooves we've been jamming to lately. My mom and I have been enjoying long walks around Delaware Park and teaching each other our favorite recipes.

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