In the fall of 2019, nearly 20 million students attended American colleges and universities, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
As exciting as this phase of life can be, experiencing some level of homesickness during the home-to-college transition is fairly common. As a parent, you may feel a sense of responsibility when it comes to helping your now-adult child get over their homesickness. And there could be a reason for concern, since studies have shown that emotional or mental distress in college students can possibly impact academic performance.
As a parent, some strategies like providing support, encouraging your child to get involved on-campus or creating a daily routine could help. Continue reading for more information on strategies you might employ to support your child, as well as a few things to avoid (or to suggest they avoid).
Strategies to Help Your Child Cope with Homesickness
Watching your child experience homesickness from afar can be challenging. It may be tempting to rush to the rescue, but it is also important that your child find their footing on campus. These tips and ideas may be helpful as you support your child as they navigate homesickness and life on-campus.
Acknowledging the Situation
It can be comforting to know that you’re not the only one struggling with a given situation. So as a parent, it might be helpful to share with your child how common homesickness is among first-year students. Providing comfort and reassurance that they are not alone and that in time, their feelings of homesickness will pass, can go a long way.
Keeping In Touch
As you and your child adjust to your new dynamic, you may need to find new ways to keep in touch. Keep in mind that while your child is adjusting to on-campus life, you don’t want to be overbearing. Try setting up a weekly video chat or sending over fun updates from home in a text message. Remember to give your child the space they need to find their footing at school.
Sending a Care Package
When packing for college, adding a few items that bring the comfort of home could be helpful if your child starts feeling tinges of homesickness. Things like a favorite book, a blanket, or stuffed animal could be just the thing when homesickness creeps in.
Sending over a care package with some of their favorite cookies, candies, or snacks and a photo of a fun memory can provide a touch of home too.
Encouraging Your Child to Get Help if They Need It
If your homesick college student seems like they may benefit from professional help, visiting their campus counseling center might be the first step. Many colleges also offer mental health services and counseling on campus, often at little to no cost.
If your child is no longer on a family medical plan, it’s likely you’ve enrolled them in a college health insurance plan, which is often rolled into costs of tuition, room, and board.
Helping Your Child Find a New Familiar
It’s probably not the best idea for parents to visit their child every weekend—though it may be hard to control yourself if your child’s university is easily accessible. As lovely as it is that you’re a familiar face, it might be more helpful for your child to find a new familiar.
Parents might encourage their child to help them make their not-yet-so-familiar home feel more known. If your college student loves coffee, they might want to find a local shop they can visit frequently—their own personal coffee haunt.
If they’re into museums, discovering the best ones nearby could help them feel more grounded in their new environment.
Getting Involved on Campus
When someone is feeling down, it can be tempting to stay indoors and wallow in those feelings. Getting involved on campus can help students build community and connect with their peers. Colleges have lots of clubs and extracurriculars that can help students find like-minded individuals.
If committing to a club feels like too much, your child might connect with peers in a more casual way, from making friends in class or meeting new people during a dorm hall function.
Developing Healthy Routines
Physical health and mental health go hand in hand, so if your homesick college student is making less-than-healthy choices during this tough transition period, encourage them to make some routine changes.
This might look like starting your day with a walk to the campus coffee shop or finding a weekly exercise class. Creating a schedule and finding routines can give your student something to look forward to.
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Developing a Plan to Pay for College
In addition to homesickness, paying for college can be an added layer of stress, for both parents and students. You likely discussed whether or not you’ll be able to assist them financially. It’s good to note that scholarships and grants can be helpful sources of funding since they don’t need to be repaid.
If your child needs to take out student loans for additional funding, talk to them about the details. For most students, federal student loans and other sources of aid may be enough to fund their college education.
Recommended: Private vs Federal Student Loans
Some parents borrow loans to help their kids pay for college. The federal government offers PLUS loans to parents. If you’re looking for an alternative, consider SoFi, where eligible borrowers could potentially qualify for a lower interest rate. Note that private student loans aren’t required to offer the same borrower protections as federal student loans, like deferment options or income-driven repayment plans, as federal student loans. For this reason, private student loans are typically considered only after all other options have been reviewed.
The transition to college life can be stressful for students and their parents. Being in an unfamiliar environment, while trying to balance classes and making new friends can lead to feelings of apprehension, anxiety, and homesickness. As a parent, providing support from a distance can include things like sending a care package, checking in via facetime once a week, or encouraging your child to get involved in extracurricular activities.
Hopefully, in time, your child will settle into their life on campus — finding a new normal. Part of the transition to college might include creating a plan for paying for tuition. After exhausting sources of financing including federal student aid, including federal student loans, students and their parents may consider private student loans.
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