As the parent of a university student, you may have done everything you could to ensure they are well equipped to live independently and to use that independence wisely. However, that doesn’t always mean they’re going to have an easy time doing it on their own. Most of us experience homesickness occasionally when we’re out on our own for the first time. For many, the experience can really be crippling. If your kid is having a tough time out on their own, here are a few ways you can help them cope better.
Make sure they leave with realistic expectations about what university is going to be
As a parent, part of our responsibility is to make sure that our kids are prepared for a prosperous future and part of that means helping them get a more informed idea of what’s going to be waiting for them when they leave home. Social media, TV, and film may have given them ideas that university is a constant party but they’re soon going to be disabused of that notion. If they were particularly looking fun to that part of uni, that twist can actually be quite shocking and disappointing. As such, it’s important to help them understand that managing a household, studying, and going to class is what they’re going to be spending the majority of their time on, and that partying isn’t quite as frequent as they might believe.
Encourage them to throw themselves into their new experience
The trepidation that your kids might feel out on their own for the first time is real and worrying, but it is also something that they can get over best with experience. Simply, if they can find the strength to go out, try new things, join new clubs, and make new friends with the help of networks like Meetup. Simply put, until they find their rhythm in their new environment and find what they like about it, most of their time is going to be spent comparing it negatively to home. When it comes to getting over feelings of homesickness, we need to get out of our own way, occasionally.
Tell them to make their own home-life schedule
One of the best ways to keep homesickness off your mind is to be busy. They can do this, in part, by enjoying the uni life as best as possible, joining clubs, going to events, and making friends. But simply getting used to a new schedule can help them move on with their life as well. Helping them put a daily routine together, including their housework, self-care, shopping, studying, and so on can help them find their own rhythm away from home. It also makes sure they don’t have too much time to let boredom settle in, which is one of the biggest catalysts of homesickness.
Help them stay in touch with the folks back home
Reaching out and sending messages via Skype, WhatsApp, Discord and the like is one thing. But it can really help warm their heart and centre your kids to hear a familiar voice once in a while. Some kids fresh out at uni may worry about the costs of calling home in their new budget, but deals like the Smarty student campaign can make it as affordable as possible for them. You have to give them some space to acclimate to their new environment, but calling once in a while and letting them know they can call you whenever they want can help them feel extra supported out there. Just try not to do it too much or you could end up getting in the way of them acclimating.
Put down social media
It’s not just home that your kid will be missing, it’s all of the friends and connections they have made over the year that they are now far removed from. That’s an emotionally tough thing for many to deal with, and people make it much worse for themselves with social media. By browsing social media all day, they’re likely to keep scrolling through photos and posts from friends they miss, twisting the knife all the deeper. Encourage your kid to set a rule for themselves that they only browse social media for 30-45 minutes a day during a set time of the day. If they can discipline the habit of thumbing through Facebook out of their life, then they’re going to torture themselves a lot less often. Apps like In Moment can offer some valuable help in doing that, too.
Send them some home comforts
Want to really warm their cockles and help them feel like they are cared for? Then put together a care package of things from home. This is especially valuable if they’re studying overseas, as their local stores aren’t likely to carry their favourite biscuits or even a decent pack of teabags. There are plenty of guides for putting together a university care package that can give you plenty of inspiration. Just make sure your intention in supporting them is clear, not that you’re trying to make them miss home even more.
Encourage them to look for help
You can offer them advice and a kind word where possible, but if you feel like they’re having a really hard time, then it’s important to help your kid be aware that there may people there who can better help them. For instance, it’s very likely that their university will have counselling services on hand. A lot of young people struggle with bouts of depression, stress, and anxiety when they’re away from home. Let them know that they’re not the only person who has gone through this, without diminishing their experience, that they can get through it, and that there are people and services who can help them get through it.
With the tips above, you can help your grown kids fight homesickness. However, it’s important to listen to their complaints, as well. If they have actual problems it may be that homesickness isn’t really the concern.