Dr. Christopher Thurber, of Phillips Exeter Academy, and Dr. Edward Walton, director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Beaumont, Royal Oak, have studied the transition to college by young adults. In their research, the doctors discovered many students experience homesickness.
Royal Oak Patch Editor Judy Davids, whose own son experienced homesickness in his first year of college, recently had an opportunity to sit down and talk to Walton. He offered these strategies for preventing homesickness.
Tips for preventing homesickness
Walton offers these suggestions to help college students avoid homesickness:
- Setup a framework for success by establishing and encouraging decision-making control.
- Have your student attend an orientation session at his or her college or university. If the school doesn’t offer one, you have to do it yourself, Walton said. Visit the campus in advance and take a tour. Begin to shape attitudes about the school and its culture before your student arrives.
- Encourage practice time away from home. Send your child to a resident camp or to visit a relative for a week. “Kids who have experienced being away from home are more successful at the transition to college,” Walton said.
- Parents’ attitudes are critical, Walton said. Address and try to resolve any family stresses before your child heads off to school. And, maintain a positive face. Remind your student of the fantastic opportunity that awaits him or her, Walton said. Give your child encouragement to be happy and successful.
- Plan connection times once your student arrives on campus and set limits. It’s good for students to know they have support at home, but if you are always on Facebook or Skype your student is not creating new connections, Walton said. “You have to set limits because it’s so easy to stay in constant contact,” he said.
- Discourage “pick-up deals,” or telling your child, “I will come and get you if you get homesick.” When students know they have this crutch they become preoccupied with returning home early. “It’s not a good idea,” Walton said. Your last message should be one of confidence and optimism.
- Encourage students to use Facebook and other social media sites to discover kids with similar interests before they arrive on campus, Walton said.