Adjusting to new surroundings can take a fair amount of time and patience. By nature, students may resist change and want to hold on to the known comforts of home, family, and friends. For most students, feelings of homesickness quickly wane as they become involved in new activities and friendships. However, for those that have had difficulty making new friends or adjusting to transitions in the past, the road may be more difficult. This can be particularly true if there are close involvements at home that present as barriers to the development of new relationships, or if there have been recent stresses or significant changes in the home environment. Below are some tips for you, as a parent, when dealing with homesickness.
Keep in regular contact with your student. Listen to your student's concerns, and take them seriously. Although separation anxiety does pass, the first few weeks can be intense, and your son or daughter may need a lot of support and reassurance. Students should understand that they need not cut themselves off from family and friends to be independent or grown up. In today's age of cellphones and email, staying in touch with others is simple. However, as with most things in life, moderation is the key. In order to overcome homesickness, encourage your child to stay in touch, but not to the exclusion of college activities. For example, let your student know that they are always welcome at home, but encourage them not to come home every weekend. Help them to focus their attention and energy here at Eastern.
Send pictures or videotapes of events that are happening at home. A care package, not simply at the usual times, also lets your student know that though they are out of sight, they are certainly not out of mind.
Encourage your student to get involved. Becoming involved in college life is often key to overcoming homesickness, and social groups and events are a core part of the college experience. Your student can simply glance through the Easterner or The Focus to find out what's going on, and there are a multitude of student clubs and groups available to them through the office of Student Activities.
Obviously, you'll want to encourage social interaction. A trip with a friend for ice cream or to the local pizza joint can cure almost anything. College presents many opportunities for such involvement, some more healthy than others. If your student chooses to attend parties where alcohol may be served, do what you can to discuss moderation or abstinence with them. Trying to mask sadness or homesickness with substance use will only add to a student's adjustment problems.
Encourage your student to share their feelings with others. Friends, CA's, and others have experienced similar feelings, and it's always comforting to know you are not alone. You can also share how you have traversed similar transitions in your past. Moreover, just sharing feelings often eases the underlying pressure that is felt. If it is late, and nobody is around, writing thoughts and feelings down on paper (in a journal or diary), can aid expression of worries and fears, often making them seem more manageable.
Have your student develop a 'comfort zone' in their new environment by bringing items from home that are familiar and important to them-like pictures, pillows, blankets, or a favorite object. Contact with a comfortable 'old friend,' who may be having similar adjustment problems at another college, can also help ease the transition.
Encourage your student to do something they enjoy at least once a day. Engaging in a favorite hobby, sport, or pastime adds happiness to one's day, and will aid in taking your student's mind off of thinking about home. College is the perfect place to try something new, although the multitude of choices can sometimes be overwhelming in itself. Often, just putting some organization into the day, and setting some small goals, can provide the structure that may be missing from home. And, volunteering time in an area of interest can also assist with engagement in the new environment.
Do your best to highlight the positives of being away at school. But avoid the "these are the best years of your life" speech-this will fall on deaf ears for a homesick student. Focus positively, but adjustment to a new life, which this is in many respects, takes time.