4 Effective Ways to Respond When Your College Student is Homesick
Lauren Yost, Staff Writer
Most students will experience homesickness at some point during their college journey. Your student may be living across the country, or just around the corner, but all kinds of students feel homesick!
In a long term study of college students, 94% of students reported experiencing homesickness at some point during the first 10 weeks of college (English et al.)
It can be difficult for students living away from home, but also for parents and caregivers too! We want our students to enjoy their college experience, and it is hard to sit with the knowledge that your student is struggling.
When your student calls home saying they are homesick, as a parent, you may be tempted to just drive over to their school and just pick them up. While this would be a temporary fix, it is by no means a long term or realistic solution to the problem.
What can you do as a parent to help your student combat homesickness without overstepping?
1. Make school their second home
New college students may struggle to live in an unfamiliar environment away from home. Your student will have lots of new things in their dorm room, but they might be missing some of the familiar comforts of home. How can you bring the feeling of home to their dorm?
Ask for your student’s input. You can offer a photo of the family, or their favorite pillow on the couch. Is there something to bring in order to bring a little bit of home to their dorm.
You can also send them a care package to show that they still have a connection to home, and that it will always be there for them when they come back from college.
2. Have a video call home
If your student is feeling homesick, you can suggest a video call home. Your student can see familiar people, pets, and surroundings on your end of the call. On their end, you can ask your student to show you around their dorm room. Where do they do their homework, and where do they hang out with friends? You can keep the call long enough to check in and give them a taste of home, but don’t let it drag on for too long.
You may also be using this opportunity to take a peek at the state of their dorm room and surroundings.
Expect your student’s dorm room to look like, well, a college dorm room. You may not love that their laundry basket is looking awfully full, or that they have some empty soda bottles on their desk.
You may have some suggestions, but remember that the call is mostly for the purpose of saying hello and checking in with your student. Pick your battles, and sometimes it’s okay to wait and address those things another time.
3. Stay busy outside of class
Your student will be attending class and doing homework, but what about the time outside of academics? Downtime is healthy for your student to relax and unwind, but it can also be a prime time to experience homesickness. Nights and evenings are free time for many students, so many campus or dorm events are scheduled for this time.
Encourage your student to pick up an event calendar or look it up on their phone. They can circle, mark, or highlight the events they are interested in. You can suggest that they keep this calendar in view, as to help remind them of upcoming activities.
Joining a club is another great way for your student to meet other students and spend their time. Your student should be able to obtain a list or information about clubs online, but they can always ask an RA (residential assistant) or faculty member.
Keeping busy and being around other people is not only a way for your student to have fun and enjoy their time, but to also keep them occupied and less focused on homesickness.
4. Schedule ahead
Next time you talk to your homesick student, it can help to remind them when you will see them again. Whether it’s a visit home or at school, plan a time to see your student, even if it isn’t for a while. Having a day in mind like “this weekend” or “on break in a couple weeks” can be a concrete point to reference back to when they are feeling homesick.
It can help turn homesickness into less of a never ending cycle to one that will end (at least temporarily) on a specific date that you can all look forward to.
Overall, your student will need to be patient, and so will you as a parent. This will take time. Unfortunately, there is no real cure for homesickness. It may seem like a never ending stretch of time before they can be home again, but of course they will be home eventually. There are things you and your student can do to help alleviate this stressor.
Focus on getting through homesickness day by day. Think about what can be done now! Whatever you and your student can do to help alleviate homesickness, no matter how small, can help your student build a tolerance for being away from home.
As time goes on, hopefully you and your student can get more comfortable with the idea of living at school.
English, Tammy, et al. “Homesickness and Adjustment across the First Year of College: A Longitudinal Study.” Emotion, vol. 17, no. 1, Feb. 2017, pp. 1–5., https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000235.