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My Family Doesn't Know Me Anymore!

Dear CMR,

I am currently a college sophomore and I've been trying to move my relationship with my parents into an age-appropriate place. I don't live close to them and I am growing and changing in ways they aren't around to see. I still want them in my life but since we don't live close, how do I grow and encourage them to understand that I am changing and evolving?


Taking On The World

Dear World,

College is meant to be such an exciting time. It is a time of self-awareness and growth. It is a time of realizing who you are and who you want to be. It is a time of recognizing the gap between those people and working towards closing that gap. You spend months working to become more of the person you desire to be, and then you go home and spend time with your family.

When I entered college as a freshman in 2007 I was navigating all the usual questions- is my faith my own? Who am I outside of my family? Are there parts of me I want to leave behind in high school? As I processed those questions and started to make some changes it was easy for me to forget that my loved ones weren’t with me day in and day out anymore. They weren’t sitting next to me in chapel when the speaker called something out of me that I had never thought about before. They weren’t sitting next to me in class when I was learning more about who Jesus is and was being assigned homework that asked me to explore what parts of me I needed to hand over to the Lord. They weren’t attending the floor Bible studies, late night food runs and participating in intramurals.... they weren’t there in the big and small moments where the Lord was transforming me from who I was to who I am. I imagine that I am not the only one who had to navigate these changes- maybe you find yourself in the same place and are asking the question of how do you enter back into your family dynamic when you aren’t the same person you were, but your family doesn’t know that? I wish there were a formula that promised if you applied it would allow the process to be smooth, but the actuality is there isn't a one size fits all solution for this.  No two families are the same, so it makes sense that there would not be one right way to allow your family to get to know you again.  That being said, as someone who has gone through this, I want to share some things I have learned along the way in hopes that they help you too.

1.    Invite your family into the growth - tell them about the things you are learning about yourself and the ways you’ve been growing. It can be easy to assume they already know those things but again- they haven’t been with you in all of those profound and mundane moments that have changed you. So, share some of those with them.

2.   Offer your family grace as they navigate getting to know who you are today and offer yourself grace as you find yourself slipping back into old patterns while being home- it is only normal. Also, try to remember that the dynamic has changed now that you aren't living at home and they all have things going on in their lives as well. You entering back in might throw some things off for them as they adjust to you being back at home. You are all navigating change. Give space for that.

3.    Fight to be who you are now even when you’re home. Like I mentioned above it is to be expected that you will slip back into old patterns (when your siblings borrow your things without asking it might still upset you-you've grown, but you aren't Jesus.) In the moments when you catch yourself responding differently than you desire to figure out what it looks like to fight to be who you are today- that might mean apologizing for the way you reacted and voicing that you desire to respond differently in the future. Your family cannot read your mind so the more you can bring them into what you are thinking the more helpful it will be for them.

Keep in mind that the transition home for the holidays or breaks will be more natural if you allow your family to know about the things you are learning about yourself and wanting to change along the way. What would it look like for you to call, text, e-mail or write letters to your family every once in a while? You could catch them up on what has been going on for you and also ask them about what is new in their lives. You might not be the only one who is growing- your family members might be as well! Asking them about what is going on with them might encourage them to ask you the same.

Again, you need to give yourself grace in this. You're going to make mistakes and so are your loved ones, and that is okay. Who you are growing into is worth fighting for.