Homesick Jul11

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You survived move-in day. Congratulations! Except for a few tears, your student seemed happy and excited (ok, maybe a bit nervous) about their new college adventure.  So why are they calling so much, talking about how much they miss you and miss home, and wondering if they made a mistake? Are they just homesick?

Homesickness is actually more common than most parents think. Freshman year of college is all about adjustment – everything is new and different, and getting used to their new home away from home comes with its share of challenges for many students. For some, the excitement of being someplace new, away from home, may fade quickly, particularly if it is taking more time than they imagined to feel comfortable in their new home. So, what can parents do if they suspect their student is feeling homesick?

Here are some tips from parents and students:

1.  Reassure your student that what they are feeling is normal. Even though students may not talk about it with each other, remind your student that many others are likely feeling the same way.

2.  When they do call, be supportive and do more listening than talking. Sometimes students just need a sounding board and want to know that their concerns have been heard.

3.  Kids often confuse homesickness – which is a natural part of adjusting to any new experience – with not liking the college itself. Try to help them see this distinction. If you’ve ever sent a kid to sleep-away camp, you may be familiar with this.

4.  Remind your student that going to college is a big transition, and that it takes time to get the lay of the land – to go from feeling awkward and unsure of everything to becoming comfortable and getting involved in campus life – and finally thriving and loving the whole college experience. One college freshman we interviewed related that the best advice she received from her parents when she was having some difficulty adjusting to being away at college far from home was to just give it some time.

5.  If they have not done this already, suggest to your student that they get involved in one activity or club on campus. Sitting in the dorm room can be really isolating and reinforce any loneliness they are feeling. Getting to know other students with similar interests and making a couple of friends can work wonders.

6.  Send care packages to your student, preferably with some homemade goodies. Getting something from home every now and then is always fun and it can be reassuring for students to know that you, too, are thinking of them.

7. And finally, fight the urge to swoop in and rescue your student, particularly at the beginning. Part of their becoming an independent, resilient adult is learning how to conquer issues such as homesickness on their own. There are many resources on campus to help students who do feel homesick, and it may be smart to remind your student about them if the feelings persist. Of course, if you suspect there is something more serious going on – trust your instincts on this – you may need to step in.  A good place to start would be with the RA (Resident Assistant in the dorm) – tell them about your concerns and ask if they’ll subtly check in on your kid.

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On Move-In Day, get phone numbers for your kid’s roommate(s) and the R.A., if possible. Just in case you need to reach your kid and can’t, for some reason.

Homesickness happens. With a little time and patience, and reassurance from parents, it usually runs its course. By working through it, college kids have an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of themselves – to grow stronger and more self-assured. And isn’t that what you’ve always wanted for them?



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