Family Near or Far

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Families can be a great support but they can also be hugely challenging and can act as a source of stress.

When it comes to family, there is no “one size fits all”. Our cultures, languages and experiences influence how our families are constructed and the place they have in our lives. For some, having family close might be a great support. But it can also come with challenges. Whether in or out of home, we might struggle with family “over-involvement”. Sometimes, there is a simply a lot going on in our homes or our communities and expectations on us to be involved.

Pressure to return home can be intense. Whilst this can come from family or community, we can also be driven by our own intrinsic connection to land and culture. Whether we come from country, inter-state or overseas, we can feel isolated without our families and friends around and this can be difficult to talk about.

Frequently suggested strategies

  1. There’s no shame in talking – yarn with someone you trust or chat with extended family
  2. Leave stress at the door – practice relaxation exercises before arriving home
  3. Have a “chore sheet” on the fridge for everyone 
  4. Organise to eat and talk together 
  5. Communicate assertively to tackle difficult relationships 
  6. Get out and keep busy when you move somewhere new 
  7. Bring things that remind you of good times at home and make your room somewhere you enjoy being
  8. Call home but also talk to new people in your new environment
  9. Look after yourself – try to sleep, eat and exercise like you did before moving
  10. Give yourself time to adjust
  11. Use respite care if you have caring responsibilities 

Blocks

Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that can prevent us dealing with problems linked to our families.

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  • It feels disloyal to access support and talk about family stressors

    In talking about family with a counsellor, the aim is to understand the context that leads to family related stress, not to blame, take sides or criticise. So seek an organisation you feel you can trust. Check out the resources at the bottom for organisations to reach out to. In asking for help with family relationships, it demonstrates a strong desire to improve the situation. The aim is to develop more helpful or supportive relationships. Rather than disloyalty, this shows a strong loyalty or connection to family members.

  • My family won't change so I just have to put up with it

    It’s true that we can’t control the behaviour of others and this includes family members. The only thing we can control is our own behaviour so thinking about how we want to conduct ourselves in our family relationships can be a really useful place to start. Limiting contact to preserve our own wellbeing is a perfectly reasonable strategy which at times we don’t give ourselves permission to do. Talking to a counsellor or yarning to a trusted person in your community is often very helpful in working out what to do.

  • I want to ignore homesickness and find strategies to pass

    Homesickness can really impact our concentration and focus. Addressing it effectively often means trying to build a life in your new location through connecting with others, pursuing interests or hobbies, and discovering things to enjoy. Doing these things allows us to then engage the effective study skills that are likely to have gained us a place at university in the first place. Sometimes, the most effective way forward is to tackle an underlying stress rather than focus on the study issue itself.

Boosters

Below are three things you can do to boost success.

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  • Talk about family stress

    Talking or yarning is a great way to change the impact family stress has upon us. We might talk to the family member themselves or someone else in our community who might facilitate a conversation that builds a solution. Talking helps us to work through things we can change (and plan what to do) and find ways to accept things we can’t change. Perspectives from people that aren’t invested or connected to the situation might help to highlight unhelpful assumptions or destructive behaviours.

  • You can choose your friends but not your family

    It is OK to acknowledge that sometimes our family is not our best avenue of support. That doesn’t mean we don’t love them or care for them but at times, helpful support may come from friends or other individuals.

  • Make connections

    When far from home, it can be difficult to reach out and make new relationships. Connecting to things that we enjoyed at home whilst accepting that they will be different is often very helpful. Dealing with stress effectively means having interests beyond our studies. The more we can investigate options available to us in our new location and give them a go, the more likely it will be that we feel settled and less stressed. Free activities are available all over the city and linking with support services like International Student Support or Wiltu Yarlu is a great way to connect with people who may share similar experiences.

Need more info?

Family & culture

Study pressure

Homesickness

Living / not living with family

Difficult family relationships

Assertiveness