Summer time is a great time for going on new adventures and having new experiences. Taking a trip or vacation, going away to camp, or travelling to a new place can all be very exciting things that you might get to do during the warm summer months. Even though spending time away from home can be a lot of fun, sometimes it can also be kind of scary, or make you feel a bit lonely and sad.
If you’ve ever felt this way when spending time away from home, you’re not the only one! This is called feeling homesick, and it happens to a lot of people – both kids and adults!
People who are homesick often feel sad or nervous either before going away, or during times when they are away from the things that are familiar for them. Even though they want to have a good time, they find it hard to have fun because feel stressed and upset. They miss all of the things that they usually have around them that help make them feel safe and comfortable. In some cases, homesickness can even feel like a physical pain, such as a headache or stomach ache.
The good news is that there are a lot of things that you can do to prevent and treat homesickness. A recent research study on homesickness published some really practical tips that have been shown to work for both young people and parents of homesick children.
Strategies for children & youth who are feeling homesick:
- Do something fun! Play with friends, join in a game or sport, or do arts and crafts to forget about being homesick.
- Write a letter or look at a family picture to feel closer to home.
- Go talk to someone (e.g. a friend, a camp counsellor) who can help you feel better.
- Try to think about all of the exciting things about being away from home, and the fun things you’re going to do.
- Think about your family or friends to figure out what they would say to make you feel better.
Strategies for parents of children & youth who experience homesickness:
- Talk about homesickness with your child. Tell them that almost everyone misses something about home when they are away, and that homesickness is normal.
- Try to involve your child in the decision to spend time away from home. Prepare and pack as a family.
- Arrange for practice time away from home, such as a weekend at a friend’s or relative’s house.
- Work together with your child to learn about their new environment, and maybe even help them get to know some of the people in the new environment.
- Try not to express nervous or uneasy feelings about time away from home to your child. Instead, express excitement and optimism about the fun your child is going to have.
- Use a wall calendar to show your child the period of time they are going to be away.
- Do not make a “pick-up deal” with your child. Promising that “if you don’t like it, I’ll come pick you up” decreases the chance your child will succeed in the new environment. If your child asks: “What if I feel homesick?”, tell them: “You probably will feel a little homesick, but your practice time away has taught you what to think or do in case any homesickness bothers you. Plus, there will be people there to talk with you and help you make it through. You’ll have a great time!”
Source: Thurber et al. (2007), Preventing and Treating Homesickness. American Academy of Pediatrics, 119(1), 192-201.