Freshman homesickness abounds in the first and even into the second semester of college. It’s not unusual. But sometimes it gets so bad that your new college student desperately wants to come home. They fear they’ve made a huge mistake and want to set the reset button.
A parent’s reaction to the sobbing pleas to come home can make a huge difference. After you have expressed your empathy and understanding, you can gently point out:
- Homesickness is normal. It is a predictable part of the Culture Shock Cycle that we all experience to one degree or another when we move to a new place or even start a new job. Sometimes it is extreme; at others barely noticeable. You really can’t predict how easy or hard it is going to be. But one thing is for sure: the transition to college can hit them like a ton of bricks. The good news is that the Culture Shock Cycle has several phases that we move through over time. It’s a normal part of adjusting to a new home. So, assure them it will pass.
- Help for freshman homesickness on college campuses is plentiful. Advise your child to reach out to the Resident Advisor if s/he lives on campus, an academic advisor, a faculty member, a counselor in the health services office, a security guard, a librarian, a music teacher, etc. Every single person on the college payroll knows that homesickness is common, and many will offer a smile, a shoulder to cry on, and even some ideas for overcoming it.
- Encourage your son or daughter to share their feelings with a roommate or other new friend. Chances are that they are experiencing some homesickness, too, and it will help both of them to know they are not alone.
- Explore together ways to get involved on the campus. Have they checked out any student organizations, signed up for auditions, open mic night, volunteer work, or jobs? The more engaged they are with people on campus, the better off they will be.
- Talk about ways to get involved in the community through religious organizations, homeless shelters, a job in a local bookstore or retail shop, a hiking or running group, etc. Getting to know the local area and population can be extraordinarily beneficial for a million different reasons.
- Ask them what they would like in a care package, and send it soon.
I didn’t know it then, and in fact I didn’t realize it for many years, but my mother did me a favor when I called weeping in the third week of the semester that I wanted to come home for the weekend, and she responded by asking if I could wait until Thanksgiving. Though I felt like my life was coming to an end and I just knew I couldn’t bear a single day longer at that college, I survived. I did more than survive. I began to adjust in a positive and productive way.
So, if your college freshman has started to describe their college as hell on earth, hang in there. Brighter days are coming. Listen, give some gentle advice, send care packages, and know that the homesickness is a measure of how much they love you and the life you provided for them and that the homesickness will end. It may not be as soon as you or they will want, but it will!