My child started college and is feeling homesick. What should I do now?

Thousands of parents sent their children to college for the first time that month. If you’re one of those parents, chances are you’ve received a few panicked calls. Every child has questions when they move out and live alone for the first time.

While answering tactical questions or calls is easy, handling calls from a homesick child is a different story. Nothing is worse than hearing your child struggle while they are miles away from you.

Luckily, there are many effective and meaningful ways to support your freshman remotely. Here are three effective tips you can implement when your child is dealing with homesickness:

How to support your college student who is homesick

1. Keep calm and move on

As a parent, it can come naturally to rescue a child who is missing home or feeling lonely. However, trying to solve all of your child’s problems can do more long-term damage. Constantly offering solutions can teach your child that they are unable to overcome obstacles on their own.

Conversely, says Dr. Avital K. Cohen, a licensed psychologist: “Each time you overcome a stressful situation, you can increase your awareness of your own resilience.” Don’t deprive your child of discovering their own innate courage by becoming like their personal superhero behave.

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It can also be helpful for parents to remember that homesickness is very common. According to researcher Talita Ferrara, “The transition from high school to college is an important milestone in a student’s life. For many young adults, this is the first time away from home for an extended period of time.”

Ferrara continues, “Although the experience of graduating from college and gaining a sense of independence from one’s family of origin can be exciting and invigorating, students can also find the transition frightening and isolating. Consequently, homesickness is associated with these feelings of isolation and fear.”

Chances are you have experienced feelings of isolation, fear, and homesickness in your own life. Reflecting on these experiences can also be helpful if you are constantly interacting with your struggling child. Having a complete understanding of what your child is experiencing can help you stay calm despite their plight.

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2. Listen, acknowledge, and encourage—in that order

While running to the rescue isn’t the solution to your child’s ultimate well-being, there are extremely powerful ways you can provide support for your child from the comfort of your own home. Listening to your students’ concerns and griefs will be especially powerful when they feel alone.

An article on homesickness from Southern Utah University states, “One of the best ways to help your student is to just listen and support them. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to and a safe place to express their feelings. It may not be necessary to provide feedback or suggestions, just understanding.”

Again, once you’ve listened to your child’s concerns and fears, it’s easy to want to offer immediate solutions. But even more effective is validating your child. Validation looks like validating another person’s feelings. This can seem like saying, “That sounds really hard” or “It sounds like you really miss your friends.”

Once you’ve listened to your child and validated their feelings, express genuine confidence in their ability to overcome difficult things. Remind your child of other hard things they have overcome and the strengths they have. Knowing that someone believes in you can make all the difference.

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3. Encourage your child to get involved

Let’s imagine that you have listened to your child, affirmed and encouraged them. Now they are asking you for real strategic advice. One of the best suggestions you can give them is to get involved on campus.

“When we’re feeling down, we tend to withdraw,” author and psychologist Tamar Chansky says, per US News & World Report. “It’s important to create new rituals, to find that place where everyone knows your name.”

Getting involved is crucial for new students as they build their new normal. Meeting new colleagues allows them to create a new community and build relationships that offer them support.

Meeting new people or attending new events can push your child out of their comfort zone. Keep encouraging your child and reminding them that they really are capable of doing challenging things.

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