Stepping out of childhood and transitioning into adulthood is no easy task. University can finally feel like freedom due to your newfound independence. 

Starting school, and deciding where to live during university can be stressful. Living on-campus is expensive. Living off-campus often means a longer commute, with similar financial pressures. Sometimes, the best option may be living at home with family while completing your degree.

Growing up, I saw a lot of stigma around living with your family, mostly portraying these young adults as lazy, broke, or unmotivated. Relationships between family members were painted as tumultuous and complex, making living at home look like a disheartening prospect. These tropes, however, are not universal, and when asking a fellow student at the UBC Okanagan campus about these misconceptions, they remarked:

One of the biggest misconceptions about living with family is that it will be horrible — this is not always the case.

Currently, more and more people are living with their families. The rising costs of essential items in Canada, compounded by the housing crisis in Kelowna, are making it extremely difficult to sustain ourselves while attending university. For many, staying home has become necessary to afford basic living expenses on top of tuition.

Going home each summer, I understand that it is not always the easiest for myself or my parents; I am grateful for their support, but being thankful does not always make it easier for everyone.

It is vital to acknowledge that staying with your family has many benefits. Often, you are saving money compared to others who are paying rent, and you have a support system that is there for you at the end of each day. 

On the flip side, as the school year begins, it is normal to live at home and feel it is impeding the “typical university” experience. Bringing home a partner, staying out late, or establishing independence becomes much more difficult while cohabitating with family. Not to mention, old habits might persist, like the tendency to still view you as a child with non-stop questions like: Where are you going? What are you doing right now? Did you pack your lunch? 

Privacy can become obsolete, and while concern from your family can be their way of showing care, it can be very frustrating to justify your choices while entering adulthood and university.

Living at home will look different for anyone, but there are always ways to improve it. A healthier living situation in your home can be possible through communication, responsibility, and boundaries.

Communicating is the only way to make living arrangements work, whether it’s with a roommate, a parent, or a great-aunt Bertha. Nothing is solved by stewing in silence over a dish left out, or a raided pack of Oreos left in the pantry (especially when it was the last one). If something bothers you or your family members, it is always best to hash things out before the tension breaks. Setting a time to talk about your grievances with empathy and open ears can go a long way in understanding each other's perspectives, even if you still cannot always agree.

Being in university also means taking on responsibilities you might not have had as a teen. Accountability in the household doesn't require you to do everything. Again, it is a shared household. Contributing can look different depending on each situation; this could mean contributing rent, cooking for your family, driving younger siblings, or having set tasks around the house. These responsibilities can foster a communal atmosphere, and show accountability to yourself and your family.

Communicating and taking on responsibility are the two of the most straightforward ways to create the number one safety net for everyone in the household — boundaries. Before settling in for the summer or starting the school year off,  it is vital to have a sit-down conversation with your family members, invite them to share their expectations of you, and offer your expectations of your own.

Sometimes, it is difficult for our loved ones to transition into no longer seeing us as children, especially when we are financially dependent on them. Setting boundaries lets everyone know what is comfortable and uncomfortable; they can be flexible but must stay in place as a frame of reference. 

For example, a boundary for a family member might be that there are no overnight guests. The limitation would be reasonable, granted many other rentals have restrictions on house guests. Likewise, a boundary for yourself might be that no one is allowed to enter your room without permission first. 

By respecting each other's boundaries, conversations in the future become much more straightforward when discussing if a boundary needs to be changed or has been broken. However, no one can control how others treat us. If your limits are consistently broken and not respected, then other housing options might need to be considered in the future.

We interviewed fellow students at the UBC Okanagan campus, and they shared their experiences living at home with advice for those in similar situations. 

Remember, living at home is tricky, but it does have the potential to be very rewarding. Be gracious, and enjoy these years with your core family; university moves quickly, and getting some help along the way never hurts.