How to help your student deal with homesickness
Bluejay families, congratulations on making it through your first weeks of having a student at college.
We’re sure you’ve been met with big and little moments of missing your student. Perhaps some of you felt emotional as you set the dinner table with one less plate or glanced at the still-made bed in your student’s room. When families go through a big transition, it’s normal to experience a host of feelings, some good, some not so great.
Your student is also likely experiencing a lot of complicated feelings right now. For new college students, being homesick is a very normal – and most often temporary – emotion.
To help your family work through these feelings together, we’ve provided some coping strategies.
Establishing communication expectations
- Have a conversation addressing two details: How often you want to talk and how often your student wants to talk. Then decide what forms of communication you’ll use. How often is it okay to text? How often do you want to FaceTime or have a phone call? Who should start the conversation? Keep in mind: Sometimes talking every day can make the transition harder. You might want to start with a couple times a week and allow your student time to integrate into their surroundings.
- Encourage your student to speak – verbally – with people from home. Don’t just text or use social media, talk to them by phone or FaceTime. Ask your student what new experiences they’ve had or who they’ve met while they’re away at school. Don’t forget pets! Have them join your FaceTime calls, too.
- Be clear about your next planned visit – whether they come home, or you go to campus. But make sure it’s not too soon or too often!
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings, especially with friends. Your student is likely not the only one feeling homesick right now. Older peers may have advice for working through it.
More coping strategies
- Encourage your student to bring pieces of home with them to personalize their space – photos, posters, a blanket or throw pillow, favorite coffee mug or anything that reminds them of home and can bring comfort.
- Remind them to, first and foremost, take care of themselves – eat well, sleep well, exercise, get outside. Help them remember what has worked before. Routines are very helpful.
- Get involved! There are so many organizations, clubs, sports and other activities on campus. Encourage your student to find supportive communities here.
- View this new environment as an adventure and encourage them to explore their surroundings. Omaha has great things to offer, many of which are just a few blocks from campus.
- Remind your student that it helps to put themselves in social situations. Go to class, ask to eat with people in the dining hall, work out, study in the library, sit in the Student Center and have coffee. Look for people they’ve met in class. Look for others who may be sitting alone as well. They may feel the same way and welcome the company!
Remember: It’s OK to feel uncomfortable
Parents and families, your attitude and advice will set the tone for future problem solving. Tackling feelings of homesickness is a great first step toward guiding your student into adulthood. You are not there to rescue but to offer guidance and advice from your own experiences. Acknowledge that feelings of homesickness are real and offer your understanding. What advice do you wish someone would have given you when you were in a similar situation?
Remember, it’s OK for your student to feel uncomfortable, and this can be one of the toughest things for parents to experience after their child leaves for college. Make note of the strategies above and provide support and encouragement. Listen to their feelings and concerns and remind them of what they can do to help themselves. Remind your student of their goals and why they chose to come here in the first place. Emphasize that you believe in them, and you know they can do it!
If, after trying these strategies, the feelings don’t subside and are interfering with your student’s ability to function, encourage them to seek out counseling. Professional support can help examine what’s contributing to the feelings and give your student the tools to decide what's best for them.
Again, congratulations on this big family transition, and welcome to the Bluejay family. If you have any questions, please reach out to the Office of Student and Family Support at 402-280-1212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach Student Counseling Services at 402-280-CALM (2256).
Jennifer Peter PsyD, is senior director of Creighton’s Student Counseling Services and the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center. Anne DeLuca is director of the Office of Student and Family Support.