By Cammie Jones
f you went to college in the 80’s or 90’s and became homesick the only way your parents would know was if you wrote them a letter or called them from a landline. In today’s world, instantaneous communication means that your homesick college student can text or call you at any time and tell you how they are feeling.
Defined as “a feeling of longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it,” homesickness is something that can be overcome.
Recognize that feeling homesick is normal and temporary.
According to a U.S. News & World Report article, “How to Handle Being Homesick in College” by Josh Moody, there are strategies your child can do to get over their homesickness. Knowing the feeling is normal and temporary will help you to not overreact to every text or thought your child shares with you. Just like anything new, there will be adjustments. Expectations may not be met. What your child thought would be their initial college experience may be different. It takes time to figure out classes and find real friends. Just remind them that they need to fake it till they make it and know that it will get better in the near future.
Talk about it with others.
While reminding your child that their feelings are not going to last forever, the lines of communication need to remain open. Encourage them to reach out to others they trust that may be going through a similar experience. There should be resources at their college that deal with this type of issue. Look for a group or a mentor your child can speak with candidly about these feelings if they don’t seem to be easing with time.
Create new traditions at college.
If your student is missing familiar home meals, help them find a restaurant that serves something similar. Get them a gift card to pick up that particular food. Send them with recipes you fix at home that they can recreate if have a kitchen. Tell them to make a weekly “date” with some friends to go to a Sunday afternoon movie, meet for coffee or take a walk. Setting up an enjoyable activity will help them feel more at home in their new environment.
Send a care package.
There are many resources online and locally that will help you put together and deliver a care package to your child. Just Google college care packages, include the college name, and you will be amazed at your choices. Or, make one yourself and mail it from home. This could include a note from family members, favorite candy or food that will not spoil on the way, a cute new piece of clothing, fun socks or gift cards to their favorite restaurant. Your college student will know that you care, and a surprise in the mail is always a welcomed sight!
Encourage establishing daily routines.
Routines are good! Your child should try to set a routine that works for them and gives something to look forward to each day. Maybe set up a wake up time, study time, snack break, bedtime routine, etc. Of course, there will be social activities that will come into play that will disturb this routine but sticking to a routine during the week or going back to it after an interruption will help your child adjust. Make sure to include an incentive to look forward to — meeting a friend for lunch, eating a sweet treat or something that will add joy to their day.
Join a club.
If your child is feeling homesick and not meeting new people, they may need to join a club or organization. Every college has groups looking for new members or volunteers. Encourage your child to check out various groups and see what interests him. There are many secular and religious groups where your child will fit in and find some like-minded individuals to navigate the newness of being out of the nest for the first time.
The old adage that a parent is only as happy as their least happy child definitely applies in this situation. Take the time to listen to your child and sympathize, but be firm in that this is a temporary feeling they’re experiencing. It’s time for your student to learn to take care of themself and what better way than right now — in a college campus atmosphere!
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