My College:
Student Life

6 Ways to Ward Off Homesickness

Shari Bender

They were home all summer. The house was a mess, the grocery bill doubled, and the laundry loads quadrupled.

As it came to an end, you were ready.

The joyous sounds of kids laughing into all hours of the early morning had worn thin, the mountain of shoes you were happy to have back at first revealed as the grungy tripping hazards they are.

Your student was ready, too.

First-years couldn’t wait to move into their dorm and START COLLEGE! Returning students (who welcomed our doting ways and home-cooked meals for a while) tired of us knowing their every move.

But as they settle into their new routine on campus, there may come pangs of sadness for kids living far from home. Parents may be annoying at times, but with the crushing blow of a first failed test, a broken heart, or just the everyday stress of college life, homesickness can creep in.

When your student is homesick (and first-years aren’t the only ones who experience this), a little love and reassurance can go a long way. It is less about the “home” and more about the “feeling.”

Here are six ways to ward off homesickness, even before it begins, for a healthier, happier fall semester for your student.

1. Photos From Home

Studies show that looking at images of loved ones can help a person feel less anxious and less stressed. So, head to CVS or download an app like Shutterfly, FreePrints or Mixtiles and print out their favorite photos to decorate their dorm room or apartment.

Photo gifts like reusable water bottles, mugs and fridge magnets can be daily reminders that your student is loved.

And don’t forget about Fido or Fluffy! Believe it or not (sorry Mom and Dad), one of the more challenging transitions your student may experience in college is living without their furry best friend. My grown children love to get photos and videos of their pets. (In fact, if I miss a few days they often request one.)

2. Letters/Cards

Emails and texts are great but can get lost in the shuffle. Stock up on “Thinking of You” or funny cards and mail them every once in a while, just because.

Most students love to get snail mail and they will likely put the card(s) on display for an instant perk up on a difficult day — or to magnify their good mood on a happy one.

3. FaceTime Calls

I am not a FaceTime fan, as FaceTime seems to highlight my wrinkles and shatters my illusion of youth. But the kids prefer it and I really do love seeing their faces. Plus, it’s easier to read emotions on FaceTime, and can help a parent look for potential signs of mental health struggles that can be masked by a voice only call.

A regular schedule may not work for your student, and I find that picking a different time each week (with special attention to my child’s calendar) is a welcome respite for both of us.

4. Snap Streaks

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, download the Snapchat app now. I may be certifiably obsessed but I can tell you that this is one of my favorite and consistent ways of keeping in touch with my kids, ages 20 and 24.

I can take a picture — just for them — and send it along, whether it be of their empty room with an “I miss you” or an in-process squabble between our kitties, Irene and Gilbert. The kids in turn share tidbits of their lives — a shot of pavement (“just finished my run”), or a smiling friend sitting across the table at lunch.

It’s an easy and fast way to connect, on everyone’s own time.

5. Care Packages

No need to wait for a birthday or holiday to send a care package. You can take the standard snail mail approach and fill a box with your student’s favorite goodies, or send a digital care package via an electronic gift card.

If your student has a roommate or suitemates, it’s thoughtful to include a little something for them as well.

6. In-Person Visits

If you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance, or you can afford a trip to visit your student, nothing can replace the feeling of an in-person visit.

Flying across the country not feasible for the weekend? Do you have a long-lost cousin or childhood friend who lives near your student’s school? I was introduced to cousins during my time at college, 3,000 miles from my childhood home. They embraced me like only family can.

Friends-like-family also can provide that home-away-from-home warmth that really bolsters a student's emotional health.

Remember, if your college student can’t shake their feelings of sadness, even with your efforts at TLC, there are campus resources like the counseling center to help them. It’s normal to feel homesick — definitely encourage them to ask for support if they need it.

Shari earned her BA in Communication from Stanford University and freelances all things Communication and Marketing. She is a cat-loving spiritual vegan and former admissions interviewer. With two grown children, Shari is happily and sentimentally embracing her Empty Nest along with her husband of more than 30 years. Her musings delight parents in numerous publications and online platforms, including CollegiateParent and Grown & Flown.
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