Most 18-year-olds will eagerly arrive at their dorm rooms this fall, ready to unpack and start what they've heard will be "the best four years of your life." But some will be overwhelmed by the pressures of their coursework and being away from the support system they had back home.
They'll miss home-cooked meals. They'll miss having their tight-knit circle of friends around. They'll miss their siblings. They'll miss their pets. They'll miss you, parents.
Here's how you can help your teen cope with homesickness and a few things you shouldn't do.
1. Do send a care package.
When they can't be at home, there's nothing as comforting as getting a basket full of useful and familiar things. It's also helpful when your student has been busy studying and might have forgotten to stock up on essentials. Bake them some of their favorite cookies. Send them some coffee for those late nights and hot cocoa for the winter. Or their favorite, pricey shampoo which they probably aren't buying on a student budget. And of course, include lots of study snacks and a little note of encouragement. Plus, everybody likes getting mail.
2. Do limit calling and try to text more.
OK, so we all know a phone is a great form of real communication. But this is the exception to the rule. While hearing your voice on the other end of the line might be reassuring, it might also make them miss you more and only make their homesickness worse. The whole point of college is for them to be out on their own and to spread their wings. Missing you is part of the process. Texting allows you to be there for them if they have any quick questions or want a fast check-in, but without an overly emotional connection. And yes, the same goes for Facetime or any other form of videochatting.
3. Do visit them rather than having them come home often.
Sure, they miss you, but they also miss the comforts of living at home, the familiarity of their hometown and having all their friends close by. They'll only miss it more if they keep coming home for quick visits. While it's of course OK for them to come spend time with the family on university breaks, it might be healthier for you to visit them. When you visit them on campus, you can spend time together but go your separate ways in the evening. You'll spend your night at a hotel and they'll go back to their dorm room, so it doesn't break their routine. This will help them get used to their new living arrangements.
They'll get a sense of confidence showing you around campus and you can applaud them on how well they seem to have adjusted and gotten a lay of the land.
4. Do share your own experiences of being on your own.
Going away to college and being in a completely new environment can be an isolating experience for some. It might feel to your child that they are the only person who is having a hard time adjusting. Explain to them that it's completely normal to take some time to adjust. While it might sound sappy, it might help them feel less alone when they hear that you once were in the same shoes. Stay positive and tell them what a wonderful experience college ended up being after you settled in. Share any tips and tricks you used back then.
5. Don't tell them how much you miss them.
If you're a new empty-nester, you might be having as hard a time as your teen getting used to your new life. Don't tell them how much you miss them and how quiet the house is without them. It will only make them feel guilty for moving away or give them an excuse to come back.
It's important to stay positive with them, no matter how lonely it feels. Keep yourself occupied and tell them how you're staying busy, because this is a change for you too. Remind them why they chose their school and all it has to offer. Encourage them to stay fit, join a club to make new friends or find a regular hobby to take part in.
Have any tips you'd like to add? Let us know in comments.
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