One of the most common messages we hear from families is that their student misses them and honestly, I can really relate to this. So much so that I’ve been driven to write a whole blog about it! During my first semester at NC State, I found myself calling home way too often (in my opinion) and counting down the days until I could get back to my family. Even though college was my new home, and I enjoyed being here, it took a long time for it to feel that way.
Everybody knows that college is a huge transition in a person’s life and being away from family is easily one of the most difficult parts of this. Just because homesickness is a popular topic of discussion for incoming freshman doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect upperclassmen. I am extremely close with my family and I am also an only child, making the bond with my parents that much stronger. Needless to say, I was (and still am) an excellent candidate for some serious cases of homesickness. But you don’t need to be like me to feel this way. Plenty of my friends whose families lived close by experienced the same emotions I did. What’s important to remind yourself of is that this is completely normal for your student and it’s all part of them learning how to be on their own.
Homesickness is such a common experience there are many resources, to help you, your family and your student combat these hard feelings.
Talk on the phone…a healthy amount. Hearing the voice of a person you love is a wonderful treasure and is a great way to connect with your student. A phone call (and ideally a video chat) is much more personal and sincere than a text. Planning a regular phone call with your student is a great start to developing new ways of connection. My roommate, for example, does a group phone call with her mother and father once a week. On the other hand, I am very close with my mother, so we talk on the phone normally once a day. However, we have a designated time (usually no more than 30 minutes) that we talk in, to avoid conflicts with either of our schedules. While there is no right or wrong frequency or length, there might be a point where your student is calling you multiple times a day or trying to talk to you for hours and this could be an indicator that they are missing you and your family. If you think this is the case, ask them openly how they are feeling. If they say they are feeling homesick it is important to try and help them find a way to cope without immediately telling them to come home because this can just increase their dependency on you as their sole support system.
Visit them (occasionally) at college. There is nothing wrong with still wanting to see your student even after they have left for school. Most families see their student at multiple points throughout the semester for various holidays and breaks. However, when homesickness hits, the first thing most want to try (including me) is going home. While doing this on occasion is fine, the truth is one of the only ways to adjust to college is to be there. Many of my friends visited home too much their first semester and then struggled to feel connected to NC State and their new friends. So, if your student says that they are homesick and want to come home, suggest the alternative that you come to them; this is one way to show them that while you’re being supportive, college is becoming their new home and you are supportive of where this big transition.
Send a care package, even if they live close by. Easily one of the best things that I had to combat homesickness was the care packages my parents and grandparents sent me. Just having a little touch of home helped me power through tough times, especially during my first year. Did you know NC State has a care package service that automatically sends them to your student around special holidays? While those are great, sending your own is even better! Some of my favorite goodies were snacks, holiday decorations, school supplies, remnants of home (pictures, figurine, etc.), and a handwritten note. These were particularly important to me because being out-of-state definitely made me feel a culture shock that made me crave the ways of Maryland. However, sending care packages even if you live nearby is still a great method of bonding with your student. If that doesn’t seem like a right fit for you, buying them groceries or sending them a gift card in the mail is a great way to remind your student that you’re thinking of them even when they’re not there.
Encourage your student to join clubs and be active. What is it that students miss most about their hometown? Friends, family, familiarity. They need these things to make college feel like a home and it takes time. But a way for students to feel more connected to campus is to get involved. NC State has over 700 organizations, so your student is bound to find something that is interesting to them. Being familiar with the area is also very important, not just with campus but Raleigh as a whole. Going downtown is a great way to spend the weekend! Homesickness comes from a lack of comfort in your current situation and your student can combat that by finding ways to feel comfortable with their friends and campus. Exploring campus and the city with friends is a way for your student to begin to feel a sense of attachment to the area and a strong companionship with their friends. Many people even end up thinking of their friends in college as their second family because everybody else is missing home as well.
Don’t be afraid to tell your student to reach out to the Counseling Center. The campus community of NC State does a remarkable job of coming together and handling mental health. When I first told my mother that I wanted to go get help for my feelings of homesickness, she was definitely hesitant. But as I guided her through their resources, she began to see just how common my struggles were. There’s even a section for parents! From there on she was much more accepting of me getting the help I needed. While we encourage parents and families to comfort students when feeling homesick there are times where it is more than that. Homesickness can be part of a more serious problem that a student should seek help for if needed. They have means and methods to help your student acclimate to their new home and lifestyle. The key is to encourage and support your student if they decide to do this.
Homesickness is one of the most common parts of the college experience; it’s a real growing pain during what is already a huge transition. It can affect anybody at any time; I am now a sophomore and I still get very homesick at certain points of the semester. Heck, just writing this blog makes me miss my family a little extra. The key when dealing with this as a family member is to show your student your affection without letting them fall back into their old lifestyle. This can even be hard on parents and families as they miss their students as much as their student misses them, but it a necessary part of the college life. I seriously considered leaving NC State after my first semester because of how much I wanted to go home and now I am so glad that I decided to stay. Because even though I had all of the pain of missing my family, I have made the most amazing friends and have had the most wonderful experiences of my life at NC State.
Need somebody to talk to about this? Our Parents’ HelpLine is here to help! Give us a call at 919.515.2441 or email us at email@example.com.