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Curing the homesick blues

"You should be happy I'm NOT calling you!" That was my daughter's response to our frustration at not hearing from her when she was away one summer. Her logic, which certainly now rings true, is that "If I'm not calling, that means I'm having a good time."

So what happens when you do receive the phone calls that break your heart? The tears, the lack of self-confidence; your 18-year-old just regressed to age 8. These phone calls make many parents want to drive to campus, smother their children with hugs and bring them home. Wrong response.

>What to do

Let them know it's not unusual. Brian Harke, dean of students at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, says that "many students start feeling homesick around the third to sixth week of the first term."

That's when the excitement and newness of the college experience dies down and students start suffering from what I call "post move-in syndrome." The workload and the pressure increase and time management becomes an issue. Stress during this transition period is normal.

Let them talk it out. Sometimes just letting them hear their fears makes them seem less intimidating. Tears can be brought on by not being invited out for pizza, only to discover a missed text invitation later. Students will frequently overreact, and what they really need is a sounding board. Sometimes all they need to hear is "I love you."

>What not to do

Don't allow too many trips home. They won't conquer their fears if you let your students run away from them. College needs to be their home, and if you allow them to return to your home too often it will prevent them from building strong relationships and will make the problem worse.

Don't visit them too often, either. Let them work it out on their own as much as possible.

Don't try to fix everything. Fight the urge to be a super-parent and make it all better. Ask your child how they think they can improve their situation.

See if they can identify good resources: a resident assistant if it's a roommate or friend issue; a teaching assistant or adviser if it's an academic issue. Every campus has a variety of student resources, including counseling.

It's important for parents to understand, according to Harke, that the students "are on a journey and you are along for the ride. You can support them, but in order for them to find calmer waters, they must navigate the rapids themselves."


Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit

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