Home from college and bumping heads with parents? Here's how you can get along

(CNN)If you're a college student and have been home for weeks due to the pandemic, you might be wondering if you and your parents are even from the same planet.

You wouldn't be the only one. Some students have tweeted their frustrations over issues little and big, such as not seeing eye to eye on politics or feeling their depression and anxiety are worsening in the presence of their parents.
It's a complicated shift. College is a time for identity exploration, and students may have experienced a level of freedom and autonomy they've never had before, said Jacob Priest, a psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Iowa's College of Education.
That journey into adulthood may have excited students because it offered so many possibilities. When it's taken away, it can feel very disorienting, he added.
    This loss can add another level of stress to moving back in with one's parents, resulting in constant arguments and disagreements. On the bright side, there are ways for young adults and their parents to get along that foster peace and respect at home.

    Why you and your parents are clashing

    Are your late night phone calls and your parents' early morning cheer brewing tension in the home? There can be several reasons for the conflict between you and your parents. Your parents may expect you to be who you were before you left the house, while you push back because you've had new experiences, freedom and flexibility, Priest said.
    There's also the unavoidable stress of the pandemic that both you and your parents are likely feeling. The stress from work or the lack of it, worries over family and living through a devastating crisis are distressing. And many college students are pining for their friends and fretting over lost opportunities.
    Or, maybe your parents are overwhelmed by your moving back into your childhood bedroom if it had become their home office. All of these situations can cause pressure that manifests as arguments, Priest said.
    "That sense of loss can be really stressful because it's more of an ambiguous loss," Priest said. "It's not that they're losing something through death, [although] in some contexts that may be the case. But in this context, the loss is more existential, that these things I was looking forward to are not going to be there anymore.
    "We don't have the rituals like we do with other losses to kind of mourn those things, to understand those things. So often that just becomes internalized and it can then lead to greater stress anxiety, which when we are carrying around that stress and anxiety, our interactions with people we are in close quarters with are likely to be more strange and more conflictual."

    Ask for a family meeting

    If students are clashing with parents over expectations and schedules, they can try requesting a family meeting, said Mary Alvord, a Maryland-based psychologist specializing in treatment of youths and coauthor of "Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens."
    There, they can all discuss what each person needs and negotiate. Do your parents need quiet after midnight so they can sleep? Do you need allotted time where you can use a room for a little personal space for online classes or phone calls with friends?
    "It's important for family discussion to happen and everybody respect each other's needs and wants," Alvord said.
    In that discussion, students can show the autonomy, individuality and initiative that allows them to negotiate relationships in a healthy way, Priest said. And don't limit that discussion to just one meeting.
    "A lot of times the assumption is that when we have one conversation, that's all we need to have about it," he said. "But just like the stay-at-home orders [when] businesses [were] closing on a week-to-week basis, it's important to engage in these conversations multiple times."
    We're different people now than we were during the first few weeks of physical distancing, Priest continued. "Times have changed, we've gotten more information ... so when we're building relationships in times of stress, it's important to have multiple conversations."

    Think twice about their intentions

    When a dispute arises between young adults and parents, it can be easy to think parents just don't understand or care. Maybe parents think students are just being selfish.
    In these situations, it's important for both students and parents to consider the intention versus the impact of someone's behavior or statements, Alvord said.
    The intent is how a person was thinking and how they wanted it to come out. But the impact is how the other person perceived it.
    When these moments happen, Alvord suggested, students can say to parents, "This is the way it came across. I'm wondering if this is the way you meant it?"
    Doing so can help diffuse these quarrels by creating a pattern in which each party attempts to understand where the other is coming from before jumping to conclusions.

    Know when to hold your tongue

    When young adults go off to college, it's an opportunity to experience life through fresh eyes without the rules and influence of their parents. They have experiences that seismically shift their beliefs, personal philosophies and values. That often means disagreements with parents over political or social ideologies and religious beliefs.
    Those disagreements manifest as arguments when they come home for the holidays or summer break, in an attempt to persuade their elders. But "now is not the time for that, because we have to coexist," Alvord said.
    "So I say to college students, get your support and your validation from your friends at school."
    Maybe some students have embraced a gender identity or sexual orientation that your college community affirmed, but their parents either weren't aware or didn't accept it. Before the pandemic, they might've been living on or off campus with a partner of the same, opposite or varying gender, Alvord said.