How Empty Nesters Can Cope with Homesick Students
Friday, September 11, 2009
It's natural for first-year students to encounter challenges associated with the transition to college life. For many students the academic demands are great, dorm life may be their first experience sharing a living space, and there is unstructured time to manage. This can also be a difficult transition for parents who feel inclined to comfort their student who is missing home.
“Just as the name implies, homesickness can actually make a student feel sick,” says Kim Allen-Stuck, Ph.D., an administrator at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. “An unsettled stomach, an aching head, and sleeplessness are common symptoms which often bring students into the university health center during the first weeks of school.”
As director of Saint Joseph's Office for Student Success, Allen-Stuck offers the following advice for parents struggling to help their homesick students adjust to the college experience:
- Listen. Be a great listener and resist the urge to always offer a solution to your student’s problem or issue. Let them say what they feel, this may be the biggest change that has ever happened in their life.
- Allow them to come home. If the student wants to come home the first few weekends, let them. Also, it’s important to avoid talking about school the entire time. If there is a school issue that needs to be discussed (requesting a room change, dropping a class, possibly leaving school, etc.) designate a time for a family meeting (maybe Sunday afternoon), so that the rest of the time at home is positive for the student.
- Encourage new experiences. Know that the college experience is evolving, one new friend, one positive experience, can change everything. Encourage your student to get involved in activities that are important to him or her (theater, club sports, community service, academic clubs, etc.).
On a final note, Allen-Stuck reminds parents that most students feel homesick at some point. “Time,” she says, “can really make the greatest difference.”