Leaving home hard for everyone

Mct and Mct

What happens when a child leaves home for college?

Does the child get the benefit of being sans parents? Will the empty-nested parents be traumatized?

Or does everybody suffer a little and gain a little?

Betty Drew has had kids in her house for 35 years.

But soon, Drew, 53, will have an empty nest. Her youngest child, Charlene Leigh Drew, who recently graduated from Harlan’s Cawood High School, will move to start life as a freshman at Eastern Kentucky University.

After five kids, Drew is worried about the empty house.

Charlene is excited to be starting college; she’ll be rooming with her hometown best friend and, she says, there will be about half a dozen other buddies on campus. That’s one of the reasons she chose Eastern, she says. She knew she would have a community of familiar faces on site.

It’s that annual rite of late summer: Thousands of

parents realize their homes are going to be emptier as their kids troop off to the mixed pleasures of college and dormitory life. Meanwhile, thousands of teens realize that Mom and Dad are no longer just around the corner.

But most students are going to feel at least a twinge of homesickness at some point.

“We certainly hear that from students: ‘Oh my gosh, I really miss being at home,'” said Mary Bolin-Reece, director of the University of Kentucky counseling and testing center.

For some students, homesickness hits early – triggered by, say, missing the family dog, a birthday or a valued event like the high school homecoming football game – and vanishes quickly. “For others, they’ll have a very different experience. They’ll start out gangbusters,” said Bolin-Reece. “Then it’s not until later in the semester that they’ll have that experience.”

Some students, for example, can’t make their first home visit until Thanksgiving.

Not that three months on a college campus is a bad thing: While the time estimated to acclimate to college life varies, most agree that students should plan to be on campus without a home visit for at least the first month. Different students might take various amounts of time to figure out their way around, master schedules, start organizing a study routine, and learn that there are lots of other people and activities available for campus interaction.

For parents, the key is to be sympathetic but not smothering, or as Bolin-Reece puts it, “for parents to allow students to know that the support is there, but to challenge the student to be independent.” There’s a safety net available, but college students need to make and take responsibility for their own decisions.