In the weeks before my son left for college I was ready to say, "Goodbye and good riddance," because he had been so hard to get along with. But of course, I missed him terribly as soon as we dropped him off. Then, just as I was beginning to adjust to his absense in late September, he called to say he was homesick. What a crazy roller coaster!
Homesickness is normal…very normal. Nearly all college kids experience at least twinges of homesickness. (If you’re one of the few whose child is not homesick, consider yourself blessed. Homesickness is in no way a measure of your child’s love for you.) It’s usually a temporary phenomenon. If homesickness lasts longer than two weeks or the child seems disoriented, seriously depressed, or anxious to the point of suicide, the situation is much more dangerous than a case of homesickness and professional intervention is required.
Homesickness typically hits 6-10 weeks after school has begun because academic review has ended and new material is being taught at a rapid-fire pace. The social scene, with ebbs and flows during the first weeks, sometimes causes hurt feelings or confusion. Late nights, little sleep, too much fun?! All of it can lead to homesickness.
As praying college moms, we can offer our children what Jesus offers us: a safe shelter (Isaiah 4:6) a refuge (Psalm 62:8), and protection from the storms of life (Luke 8:23-25). All it takes is a willingness to listen, and an ability to react to what we hear with prudence. Your child may say he's lonely and ask to come home. He might be irritable, unmotivated, anxious, or pessimistic. Prudence dictates that we assess the situation properly; (Is his homesickness "normal" or a serious kind of depression?); that we judge correctly (Is he's just venting, or something more?); and that we respond in a calm, measured and appropriate way. To do so, we to tap into the power-source for all virtue--Our Lord. Lord, send me prudence to parent well through my child's homesickness! Amen.
See chapter 9 in And So We Pray or my new radio interview on WMET 1190 Washington DC (see button above) for a more in-depth review of homesickness/causes, consequences and remedies.