Photo by Jessica Johnson.
Winter break: For some students, it’s a happy homecoming filled to the brim with reminiscing and home-cooked meals surrounded by the ones you love. For others, it’s a mixed bag full of arguing about politics, houses overcrowded with obscure family members and realizing your room is being turned into a gym.
Not every family celebrates the holidays the same way, not every family gets along as well as they wish they did and not every student should be forced to go home for the holidays.
For many, me included, the holidays are a great time to be around family. In fact, many of the stories surrounding some of the most celebrated holidays in America (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah), are grounded in and centered around family values and traditions. But every student has different relationships with their family. For some students, being home for the holidays can take a severe toll on one’s mental health.
For some, being around family for extended periods of time is torturous. For those with divorced parents, there’s the pressure of determining who you need to spend the day(s) with, followed by the guilt of not spending enough time with either.
For those who consider their family toxic, there’s the stress of feeling trapped in a home they don’t feel welcome in. Many students move out to set barriers and boundaries between them and their family, and the anxiety and guilt of being forced back into that home creates a miserable time for both the student and their family.
Also, some students just don’t want to. Perhaps they want to spend their few weeks without stress, relaxing or traveling, or catching up on sleep. Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, in an article written for the Chicago Tribune, said “…or even if you just prefer to take a tropical vacation with friends than see crazy Aunt Mildred — sometimes your family’s preferences must take a back seat to your own.”
Some students feel the need to go home based on the familial and societal standards that one needs to be around family for the holidays. There’s the fear of disappointing your family and being missed; the insecurity that comes with not knowing if you made the right decision to stay or go.
For this, I recommend doing what you feel is healthiest for you. If you feel like spending time with your family will make you miserable, then don’t go this upcoming year. You’re allowed to spend spring break with friends. It’s okay if you don’t want to go home for Easter. Put aside your family’s feelings and put your mental health first.
However, if you feel like you can healthily manage being around your family for a few weeks, then go home and spend some time together.
Elejalde-Ruiz said: “Know that it’s a trade-off and that there are consequences. Sometimes it’s worth disappointing family to spend your precious few vacation weeks traveling the world. Sometimes it’s better to suck it up and go home for a day than cause pain.”
Regardless of what your family thinks, it’s important to put your own mental health first. Whether you went home or not, it’s important to celebrate the way you want to, whether you’re at home or staying at your dorm or traveling for those few precious weeks away from classes.