By Heidi Stevens Tribune Newspapers
3:09 PM EDT, September 10, 2013
Your son wants to come home from college every weekend. Should you let him?
From our panel of staff contributors
If he's attending the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, probably not. But if the distance isn't prohibitive, sure, why not? He may miss mom and dad or — shockingly! — his siblings. Maybe he just wants a home-cooked meal or to use the laundry facilities. As long as his visits don't disrupt your lives and don't keep him from his studies, keep the welcome mat out.
No. Feeling homesick is natural, but your son needs to get acclimated to a new environment where he is his own man and not your child. Weekends on campus can be boring, admittedly, but at least he's bored with fellow collegians who may become friends. Tell him he needs to look to the present and the future — not the past. You can go home again from college, but the terrain is always vastly and unsettlingly different because all of your friends are away at college.
— Bill Daley
If you have reason to believe he's miserable at college, have a conversation. If he's coming home to connect with friends, spend time with you, get a couple of hot meals and do his laundry, be happy; those days will disappear soon enough, and every kid transitions to college in his or her own way. Now, if "wants to come home" involves your driving him to and from campus or paying for a train or bus ticket every time, it's appropriate to establish limits.
Encourage him to stay put, says clinical psychologist Michael Thompson, author of "Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow" (Ballantine Books).
In his work as a school consultant, Thompson says he frequently hears from high school counselors who field dozens of calls in September and October from distraught college freshmen who've decided they chose the wrong college.
"They say, 'I need to come see you at Thanksgiving break and start applying to other schools,'" Thompson says. "By Thanksgiving, they never show up."
In other words, some students just take a month or two to adjust to their new environment. Avoiding the new environment won't speed along that process.
"If a child keeps coming home, he's preventing himself from making the kinds of connections that will support his life in college," Thompson says. "Independence requires you to put yourself out there and take risks and go out to dinner with new people and go sit in another person's room."
You can gently push your child in that direction, he says. "Allowing them to come home all the time without expressing your concern gives them a vote of no-confidence," he says. "You're saying, 'I don't think you can make it at college.'"
Instead, he says, try: "We love you, and we're always glad to see you. But we're worried because we imagined you would begin to put down some roots at college, and it concerns us that you're not doing so."
Have a solution? Your 10-year-old comes on really strong with new friends. How do you tell her to cool it? Find "The Parent 'Hood" page on Facebook, where you can post your parenting questions and solutions.
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