Whew… the college dorm is unpacked. Your child is getting accustomed to his/her new environment. Studies have begun. At home, things are busy and, perhaps, that sinking feeling you’ve had because of their absence is gradually lessening. Saying goodbye was hard, but the future looks bright…right? Well… as a quietly receding ocean signals the approach of a tsunami, so too, this relatively quiet couple of weeks can catch parents unawares as a giant wave of emotion heads their way. About one month after college drop-off, many students are hit by homesickness! Why now?
Oftentimes, a new college student has plunged headfirst into the social scene, excited to mingle with so many other young people in close proximity. Realizing that he/she has time to burn, compared to the academic crush of junior year in high school, this novice of time management finds him/herself frayed and exhausted just about the time that midterms become a frightening reality. The novelty has worn off. Academic review is over, and new material is being taught at a rapid-fire pace. Friendships have formed, but the fluidity of these early weeks has caused hurt feelings, confusion, and sadness. The result is homesickness.
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, most often brought on by adjusting to the more demanding aspects of college, like rigorous academics, competitive sports, or social life. Your child may express feelings of loneliness and may ask to come home…repeatedly. Other symptoms can include irritability, decreased motivation, performance anxiety, pessimism, or isolationism. 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 will be required.
A Praying College Mom employs the virtue of Prudence to best deal with homesickness. Prudence dictates that you seek advice, judge the circumstances, and act wisely.
For expert advice, the college itself can be an excellent resource. Often, the school website counsels students at length on the symptoms and remedies for homesickness. Colleges also have counseling centers and medical centers should your child wish to seek professional help. At Catholic schools, campus ministry offers priestly guidance, access to the sacraments, and other faith-based integrative activities, like parties and late-night masses, which can help to cure homesickness.
Another resource not to be overlooked is the Praying College Moms care package, which is a wonderfully personalized opportunity to show your child you’re thinking about her and miss her.
Have you spoken to your husband/your child’s father or a trusted family member? What is his assessment of her mood? A father or father figure can offer a very different and necessary perspective on your child’s emotional health. Two outlooks, both with intimate knowledge of your child, will be much better than one.
After gathering some sound advice, prudence dictates that you make a judgment and act. How serious is the problem? What is the best recourse? Whatever you decide to do, a prudent mom will pray for her homesick child…daily, even hourly! That’s not as tall an order as it sounds. Every time your mind turns to her homesickness, your knee-jerk response can be to lift your heart and mind to our loving Father on her behalf. “With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18).
You might pray lines like these from Scripture, perhaps memorizing one or two of them and repeating them every time you find yourself worrying about her.
• Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:6, New International Version)
• Take courage, my daughter; the Lord of heaven grant you joy in place of your sorrow. (Tobit 7:16)
• Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.. (Luke 6:21)
Customize them, if you like, to help you identify more strongly as the beloved daughter of your Father. Use them as a springboard into your own prayers of petition. For example, in place of the first line, you might pray, “I am sad and worried right now about my daughter. She is really missing us. But I know that it won’t last forever, and You, loving Father, accompany me in my tears. Console both of our hearts.” For the second verse, you might pray, “You are my delight, Father, and I draw courage from Your providential care of things.” For the third line of Scripture, pray, “Bless me, Lord, and bless my daughter. We will laugh again! Of that I’m sure.”
With the power of prayer behind you (yours and your friends’) the virtue of prudence will surely guide you to make a responsible, measured response to your child’s homesickness without overreacting, intruding, or trying to control things from a distance. You’ll know just what to say and when to say it. Lord, please send prudence!
Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going." Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle. ...The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid. CCC 1806
Help me to be a prudent parent -- not a person led by fear or anger, but someone grounded in Your grace with the capacity for being prudent. I love my child, but You love him/her more! I trust You to guide me to help my children face every hardship or sorrow with Your wisdom, love and prudence. Lord, send me prudence! In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.