How to Deal With a Homesick College Student

Is your college student calling daily and trying to come home every weekend since leaving for school? Your child could be homesick and struggling to adjust to college life. And even though the situation might be pulling at your heartstrings, remember that you are there to support your child’s growth and independence. In fact, self-help author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins is famous for saying, “All growth starts at the end of your comfort zone.”

First Thing’s First

According to the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, during the two weeks leading up to the spring 2017 survey, 14 percent of college students reported feeling so depressed they could not function, 30 percent reported feeling very sad, and 27 percent felt overwhelming anxiety. So more than anything else, it’s important to make sure your child isn’t experiencing serious depression.

Look out for symptoms of depression that are persistent (lasting for a couple of weeks or longer). These could include an “empty” or hopeless mood, overwhelming sadness or anxiety, inability to enjoy activities, trouble concentrating, irritability, fatigue for no apparent reason, suicidal thoughts or actions, and very irregular eating and sleeping habits, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Ask your child if he or she is experiencing any of these feelings. And if you think your son or daughter is much more than homesick, he or she may need your guidance getting psychological help.

A physician or psychologist can provide documentation of a serious problem. The university counseling center can also suggest adjustments to help your child work through any resulting academic difficulties.

Remember, This Too Shall Pass

If students are not dangerously depressed and are just feeling homesick due to the adjustment, one of the best things you can do is reassure them that it is normal to miss home. At home, they are accustomed to the routine, the surroundings, the people, the food, and more. And routines are comfortable. Now, they are in an environment where every single thing is different.

Maybe there is an item from their room or a piece of clothing you could send that could help your son or daughter feel more connected. Add a reminder that this feeling isn’t necessarily new, whether it was starting a new school, leaving for camp, or moving to a new house or town. Reinforce that this strong, uncomfortable feeling will pass, just like it did before.

Progress, Not Perfection

Maybe some “baby steps” are in order. Encourage your child to take some small steps toward getting more involved on campus. Ask about roommates, dorm neighbors, or professors they’ve connected with. Ask about any school-wide activities or clubs that sound intriguing. Talking about these positive aspects of the college experience can help your child feel more at home. Any progress toward getting involved in college life is a step in the right direction.

Live and Let Live

This is your child’s journey. Try to take a step back and resist the urge to visit every weekend, talk every day, or “do” too much about your student’s homesickness. Take the tips above as tools to utilize when your child really is in need of a good taste of home. A good rule of thumb is to set a schedule for visits, that your time and budget allows, and stick to it. It’s important to let students manage their feelings on their own, so they can learn to persevere even when they are uncomfortable. When they succeed, they will gain resilience and self-confidence. And that’s something you can both celebrate when they finally do return home.