He always was a “homebody,” passing on the sleepovers and overnight camps. He seemed to relish the thought of sleeping in his own bed. Will he ever leave? Finally, as adolescence progressed the excitement of going away to college grew. There were applications and acceptance letters, orientation and “move-in day.”
Then come the texts and the heart breaking phone messages. “I don’t like it here.” “My roommate is weird.” “I can’t sleep in this room because it is too noisy, hot, small…” “Maybe I shouldn’t have come here.” “Can I come home this weekend?”
What do you do? How do you help your college student? How do you help yourself?
Most college students experience homesickness. For some, it may last a few days until they acclimate to their new environment. For others, the transition to living on their own can be a bit rougher, sometimes leading to a desire to be home. There are several keys to helping your college student manage this transition.
- Homesickness is normal. Even though your student believes that everyone else they meet is “having the best time of their lives,” it is very common for any of us embarking on a major life shift to experience some anxiety. Listen, offer support and encourage your student to problem solve. Avoid fixing it for them. “Give a person a fish and they will eat for a day, teach a person to fish and they will eat for the rest of their lives.”
- Manage your own emotions. It can be hard to watch the student that you have raised for the first 18 years venture to this new world. It is a necessary step in the developmental process. It is O.K. to let your student know that you miss them but don’t dwell on it. Stay positive and let them know that you are getting used to the new arrangement just as they will.
- Encourage them to stay. Resist the temptation to have them home during the first six weeks of the school year. Trips home every weekend get in the way of your students ability to conquer homesickness and make college “home away from home.” Encourage involvement. Joining a club, intramural sports, activities in the residence halls and exploring Milwaukee with other students all help to ease the transition. Stress their strengths and resources. Remind them of past successes, tasks conquered.
- Recognize when it is something more. If you think that your student may be more than homesick, possibly depressed or suffering with anxiety, take it seriously and encourage them to reach out. Norris Health Center Counseling and Consultation Services offers confidential evaluations and treatment for students dealing with a wide range of issues. If your student is unsure whether they need counseling, encourage them to attend Let’s Talk, a drop-in counseling consultation at various locations around campus. For more information visit Norris Health Center online.