Answer: Everybody who leaves home misses some aspect of his home life. In the questions below, however, the term homesickness is used to describe a condition in which the student is excessively sad and manifests certain overt actions and unacceptable behavior that show his unwillingness to attempt to adapt to the program here.
How do I respond if my son calls home and sounds miserable?
Answer: Listen — really listen — when he calls home. Let him share — without interruption — his likes and dislikes, his achievements and failures, his frustrations. Give him advice only when he asks for it and when it seems appropriate. Most of the time he will only want you to listen, making the appropriate sounds. Don’t allow these conversations to become arguments. Instead, be helpful and encouraging, letting your son know that the decision to attend Saint Stanislaus for at least a year has already been resolved.
How am I to sound?
Answer: Be firm. It is crucial, especially during your son’s first few weeks away, that you and any other extended family members close to your son demonstrate a strong and unyielding commitment to the idea of residency at Saint Stanislaus. If the homesick student senses any ambivalence on your part on or the part of any others who were involved in the decision to attend school here, he may act out inappropriately in school and/or exaggerate his homesickness. That student will try to “push the right buttons” — including those of his grandma – if he feels that he might be withdrawn of asked to leave.
Is there anything else I can do?
Answer: Keep putting the ball back into our court. Tell your son to talk to his prefect, a counselor, or the Director of Residency. You, too, should talk with one of us. Your son’s description of what is going on here may not be totally accurate, and we could certainly be more objective in our assessment.
What if none of this works?
Answer: Remind your son why you selected the residency program at Saint Stanislaus in the first place. Refresh his memory about what was happening in his life before he came here. Tell him how confident you are that Saint Stanislaus will give him what he needs, those things that only a residency program can give. Tell him that these benefits in the long term far outweigh the short-term feelings of homesickness.
What if I miss my son?
Answer: By all means tell your son that you miss him. This is natural and healthy. Explain to him how it is difficult for all the family to get along without him. Assure him that he is loved, wanted, and supported by all. However, explain to him that the separation may help the loving relationship you share to grow. Tell him how proud you and the family are that he is responding so maturely by going away to school. Remind him what a difference Saint Stanislaus can make in his future.
What if he is negative?
Answer: Accentuate the positive. Discuss plans for upcoming weekends when he will be at home, and tell him that you will all have a good time when he is there. Don’t, however, promise him the moon. Make sure that he understands that his commitment here is for at least one year. Encourage him, however, to take one day at a time, one week at a time. Advise him to stay busy and to get involved in activities connected with Saint Stanislaus.
What if he makes “threats”?
Answer: In his frustration, a homesick student may make threats such as, “I will never love you again!” Experience has taught us that such comments are meant to pull at your heartstrings and they do that quite well! But they are usually made in anger and are not to be taken seriously. “I’ll run away” is another common threat. Most students who say this do not actually attempt to run away. However, should this threat become a reality, we have tried and true processes of working with local and state police in finding such a student and in returning him safely to the campus. “I’ll do something to get kicked out!” is a frequent threat. We do not consider expulsion a reward, and we have developed a high level of tolerance in dealing with discipline problems, often through appropriate consequences. But a student does need to know that there are alternatives to Saint Stanislaus. A student should be told clearly that if he is expelled from here, he will not return to his former school. On the contrary, he will probably be sent to an institution with more strict and rigid forms of discipline — such as military school.
Should I offer rewards?
Answer: Rewards can be effective means of positive reinforcement, and your offering of rewards should be the result of prudent judgment. While the temptation to appease a homesick son with a lucrative promise of a special reward might help in the short-term, it usually has no long-term impact. If you do offer a reward, however, make sure that you adhere to your end of the bargain. If your son meets the criteria of your agreement, the he should receive the promised reward. If he does not, then there should be no “pay off.” At no time should the reward have anything to do with the original commitment you and he have made to stay with us for at least one year.
What if he asks: “If I do well here, can I return to my old school?”
Answer: This is probably the most common proposition made by a homesick student. While returning to his former school may be the ultimate goal, there is a danger in encouraging such a deal. In most cases it is the structure of the residency program here at Saint Stanislaus that enables a student to achieve success. In fact, a student will usually improve his grades very quickly here. Rarely, however, can a student master self-discipline, organizational skills, and study habits in one school year. The same issues that prompted your decision to leave a school will quickly resurface if your son has not had the time to internalize the lifetime habits which we attempt to instill in him while he is part of the Saint Stanislaus family.
How often should I call or expect visits?
Answer: Recognize that the school’s policies regarding telephone calls and weekend spent at home are made because of our years of experience. These policies exist to help the homesick students get through the transition period as easily and as quickly as possible. Don’t therefore, call your son frequently; and don’t give him unlimited telephone access to you. Welcome him when he comes home for the weekend, but don’t make it sound like the end of the world if he does not come home every weekend. Since different students need different types of nurturing, stay in frequent contact with your son’s prefect to learn his assessment of what would be the most effective way to handle phone calls and visits from your son.
What does it mean if I feel guilty?
Answer: It could simply mean that you are a member of the human race! Your son might want to put you on a guilt-trip by demanding of you, “If you love me so much, why can’t I come home where I belong?” This accusation can catch parents/guardians off guard, and they can forget why they chose a residency school in the first place. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about sending your son to the school best suited to his needs. Remind him how much he is loved. Tell him that because of your love for him, you are willing to make any sacrifice necessary to secure his future for him — even if that means missing him as much as you do when he is away at school. There might be a lot of crying, and expect some of the crying to be your own.
What do I do when I don’t know what to do?
Answer: Give us a call. We might not have all of the answers, but we are always good listeners. Saint Stanislaus exists to further your son’s development, and your calls are always welcomed.