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Homesick: How to Support Your Student During the Holidays


The holiday season can be a challenging time of year for many college students, especially if it is the first year they have spent the holidays away from home. Supporting your student through challenging emotions, including being homesick, can be difficult. However, finding ways to help them while allowing your student to learn to manage their emotions is possible.

How Does It Feel to Be Homesick?

Research shows that 19-70% of students feel homesick while in college. While it may vary for each individual, being homesick is the feeling of distress while being separated from home. During the holiday season, your college student may miss certain holiday traditions and be upset by the absence of their home environment.

Additionally, the holiday season often has a variety of changes in their routine. These breaks range from a long weekend on Thanksgiving to time off of school for Christmas. While at home, your student likely had certain routines that were oriented around family traditions, or you were able to help them maintain a routine. At college, they will need to find ways to decrease homesickness as they learn to live independently.

Value of Supporting Your Student When They Are Homesick

Supporting your student during their transition into adulthood is incredibly important. It helps to close the gap, meaning it helps your student to gain the skills they need to thrive in college and beyond. Research has found that being homesick decreases a student's ability to adjust to new environments and increases their risk of social anxiety. Supporting your student when they are homesick can help minimize the negative impacts of homesickness during the holiday season.

While the holiday season is often marked with time off of school, it is also associated with finals or mid-terms. Missing home and feeling distressed from being away from home can impact a student's ability to focus on school. Therefore, helping your student to find methods to manage these emotions can be important for their academic success.

Supporting Your Student When They Are Homesick

Finding methods of supporting your student when they are feeling distressed is challenging. However, there are a few tools that can help you to provide support while allowing them time to learn how to manage loneliness during the holiday season.

Help Them Find Support

One of the best ways to help your student manage loneliness is to help them find support. While support can look different for each individual, it often includes a combination of the following:

  • Mental health counseling

  • Educational coaching

  • Life skills coaching

  • Community or peer support

Many colleges offer multiple support options, including counseling or educational coaching. However, if your student could use more support, working with an organization such as Northwest College Support can provide additional help.

Regardless of what your student believes is best for them, you can help them find support. However, it is important to remember that while you can help them find support, they need to take responsibility and find a path that works for them. This means that you can help by providing options or helping them to reach out. However, it is ultimately up to them to choose the best path for them as they transition into adulthood.

Social Connections

Making social connections is very important in combatting loneliness. In fact, research has found that connecting with others decreases the risk of loneliness. During the holiday season, this can manifest in many ways. For some students, this may mean joining a friend in their holiday traditions or getting together with a group to enjoy socializing around the holidays.

While it is ultimately up to your student to make social connections, you can help as well. Staying connected with your student by asking them about their current friends and peers can help. You may also ask about options for social connections over the holidays in their new environment. While you cannot set up a social network for them, your emotional support can help them take steps toward connection with others in their college.

Don't Come Immediately to the Rescue

Supporting your student during the holidays is vital. However, it is important to find a balance that allows them to discover methods to connect with others in their new environment. It takes time to adjust to a new place and a new lifestyle, and often with some time, the loneliness may decrease.

Seeing your student in distress can be stressful, and it can feel like you need to jump in right away. Ideally, you will be able to support your student while they find ways to connect at school. However, scheduling times for your student to come home may be necessary to decrease loneliness. Remember, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Support looks different for each student. Remember to work with your student in order to both support them and allow them to take steps toward independence and adulthood.

The holiday season can be challenging for those who are away from their families. For many students, this may be their first holiday season away from home. As a parent of a student, it can be very challenging to see your student in distress. At Northwest College Support, we offer programs that help students thrive in college. This means improving educational and social skills to help students make connections while finding success in the classroom. We believe that each student's needs are unique. If you are interested in learning more about our programs and how they can help your college student, call us today at (877) 485-2776.

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