Less than 2 months ago, many parents dropped their child off at college and saw how excited they were to begin this new chapter. Now that reality has set in, students may be telling you that they are struggling with sharing a room with someone else, eating dorm food every day, dealing with challenging classes, and even feeling homesick or lonely at times.
If your child is feeling homesick, know that they are not alone. According to a large survey of college students, approximately 66% of new and transfer students have experienced homesickness or loneliness. Homesickness is common and typically passes in a short time. Yet as parents, it may be hard to hear that your student is struggling. It may be tempting to visit or have your child come home for the weekend.
This is the moment where it is important to understand what homesickness is really about. Feeling sad and lonely doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is in the wrong place, but that the student is adjusting to this transition. Parents can support students as they cope with this change. The key is for parents to help students learn how to move through this discomfort rather than try to take it away. Students need to learn how to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and work on ways to feel more connected with their college community emotionally, socially, and intellectually.
So much of parenting is listening with compassion and really striving to understand our children. If we try to protect them from their struggles, they will miss an important opportunity to learn from their experiences and build confidence in solving their own problems.
The following are other ways parents can help their students cope with feeling homesick and lonely during the college years. These guidelines were developed by Dr. Carol Dell’Oliver, Director, and Dr. Paris Schaefer, Staff Psychologist, at UP’s Health and Counseling Center.
Encourage students to reach out to others.
- This can include talking with or calling/texting their close friends, supportive family members, their RAs, advisors, or teachers who can offer reassurance.
Find a balance maintaining contact with the family.
- Have something planned on the calendar that you and your student can look forward to each semester.
- Don’t encourage too many trips home. Students need to build new connections and establish college as their home away from home.
Be a supportive listener, but try not to give advice.
- Be there for them and provide a sympathetic ear. Allow students to express difficult emotions and identify how to cope with them. Be patient with their ups and downs.
- Remember that with struggle comes growth!
- Ask what your student typically does to find comfort or deal with stress. It might be listening to music, going for a run, watching a movie, or doing something creative.
Send a little love the old-fashioned way.
- Prepare a care package of your student’s favorite things.
- Write positive messages of encouragement during stressful times or after an important accomplishment.
Looking for more resources? Here are some tips for students dealing with loneliness and homesickness.