One of the ways that we can help new students gain early success in a residential setting is by effectively managing the common, normal feelings that accompany separation and adjustment to new surroundings. These feelings are often lumped together by adolescents and residential faculty and are referred to by the term “homesickness.”
Homesickness is a very well understood, very easily recognized, and very readily remedied phenomenon. There are even some steps a family can take prior to the start of school to help ease the transition.
The residential faculty at Stevenson is well trained and experienced in dealing with transitional issues that arise. Parents who are concerned about their child should contact the student’s advisor and dorm head. The dorm head and advisor will talk with the student to link him or her with other students with similar interests. The dorm head will work with the prefects to help the student. Finally, the dorm head and advisor will work to involve all students in activities and organizations in order to help the student to get out, to get active, and to meet new people.
Tips for Parents:
- Acknowledge your child’s homesickness and reassure your child that you are confident that attending Stevenson is a good choice and that your child will make it through this difficult time.
- Ask questions and express interest in your child’s classes, friends, and activities—make plans to visit or keep track of the activities at school. Encourage your child to join a team, club or community service group. Stay up beat and excited about the possibilities. Treat the homesickness as a regrettable, but temporary problem.
- Reassure your child about what is going on at home—sometimes homesick students are afraid they are missing something important at home.
- Establish a set time to call—gradually decreasing the frequency if appropriate.
- Understand that your child, when he or she is sad or lonely, may make the situation look much worse than it is. Homesick students rarely need to pick up the phone and call home when things are going well—no news is good news, but this may present an imbalanced picture to a concerned parent.
Follow the links below for more excellent resources that might help ameliorate some of the anxiety about homesickness and that also give some concrete suggestions on what families can do prior to the start of school:
The vast majority of teenagers will quickly adapt to their new surroundings without experiencing more than a quickly passing sense of missing home. For a small percentage of students, these feelings may be a bit more intense. Parents should work with the adults within the Stevenson community to help their teen effectively cope with these feelings.
Portions reprinted from:
Helping Students Achieve a Positive Emotional Transition