Helping Your Son or Daughter With Homesickness
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By: Rhiannon Winner, Uloop
It’s always easier helping someone through challenges when you can see them. You can hug them, take them out to do their favorite things, cook them their favorite meal, and offer real, immediate words of comfort.
When they’re miles and miles away, completely out of reach and away at college for a while longer, parents are often left feeling helpless. If your student becomes homesick, as scary as it may feel to be so far away from them, you really can help.
Encourage them to get involved.
It’s easy to be homesick when you have free time. A student who isn’t always caught up having fun with friends, working, or attending clubs and events has a lot more time to sit around and think about how much they miss you and home. Encourage your student to involve themselves both academically and socially.
Suggest that they join some new clubs (either ones focused on old interests or something new that just sounds like fun), intramural sports teams, or volunteer programs. Whatever your student is interested in, there are plenty of great clubs and programs out there that will occupy their time, look good on a resume, and of course, help them meet lots of new friends and simply have fun.
Send them a care package.
Sometimes a little reminder of home can do wonders, especially if your child tends to be sentimental. Mail them some of their favorite foods from home, a card from the family, or maybe a little trinket like a necklace or bracelet that reminds them of home. Being remembered by those they love and reminded of where they come from is immensely comforting for some students.
Talk to them.
Your student isn’t going to get over their homesickness if they cut you out of their life completely. Remind them that it’s okay to text you sometimes, and while you probably won’t be able to answer immediately, they might derive some comfort from being able to connect you with their new life. Whether they’re texting you pictures of events and friends, letting you know they did well on a test, or simply saying hello, just getting words out there can help them feel closer to you.
Additionally, you can set up call times with your student if they need it. Some students prefer talking instead of just writing down everything they need to say. Scheduling a call time once in a while can alleviate your student’s homesickness because they know that they’ll be connected to home soon enough. It’ll be easier for them to focus on their friends and schoolwork if they’ve already got a time scheduled to talk to you and don’t need to constantly worry about missing home.
Stick to your guns.
Chances are you already realize that letting them come home frequently or visiting them every other weekend is a bad idea (since it’s just going to prolong their homesickness). Your student may be really desperate to see a familiar face and eat a home-cooked meal, and not care that you don’t want them coming home.
As hard as it is to tell your student ‘no’ when you know that they’re suffering, you’ve got to stick to your guns and insist they stay at school until break. You’re not doing them any favors by giving in. You’re only making it more difficult for them to build connections at school, so they might never get over their homesickness.
Help your child seek out on-campus resources.
If your student’s homesickness just isn’t improving no matter what you do, you may want to suggest that they find an on-campus resource to help them. Most colleges have free counseling centers, so you may want to suggest that your student should schedule an appointment and talk through their problems with a professional. There’s only so much you can do as a parent. Sometimes it’s best to admit that you’ve reached the limits of what you can do, and point your student in the direction of those better equipped to help them.
Don’t blame yourself.
You know what definitely won’t help your student through tough times? If they know (and they will know) that you’re blaming yourself for their homesickness and getting so upset that it disrupts your own life. You have to take care of yourself and remember that homesickness is completely normal, and you and your student will both be okay in the end.
For most students, homesickness is completely forgotten by the end of their first semester or first year of college. So remember that there’s an end in sight. The best thing you can do for your child is to stay calm, which will in turn help to calm them. Getting upset will only worry your student and make them even more desperate to come home and see you.
Dealing with a homesick child can be difficult from afar, but it’s not impossible. Your student, like every other college student, is caught between two worlds. But your student, just like everyone before them, will find their place and be just fine.
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