Dealing with Homesickness: It’s Not About Home

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With summer on the horizon, children look forward to overnight camps, sleepovers and more. Spending the night away from home can cause some children to become homesick. What exactly does it mean to be homesick?

The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics defines homesickness as “distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents.” When a child begins to feel homesick, they don’t miss their actual home, they miss love, protection and security—feelings usually associated with home. Children who feel homesick will often feel anxious, sad, nervous and most commonly, become obsessed with thoughts of home. How can parents help their kids deal with feelings of homesickness?

  • Talk through the upcoming separation with your child to help set expectations.
  • Emphasize that homesickness is normal.
  • Encourage your child to make new friends and seek support from adults.
  • Most importantly, be enthusiastic and optimistic about your child’s away-from-home experience. Tell him or her that you think the experience will be fun.

If you think that your child will become homesick while away, letter writing offers a great way to stay connected. Why not a phone call? Phone calls can backfire. If a child hears his or her parent’s voice or a parent hears the child being upset, the real-time contact with home can exacerbate homesickness. Before your child heads out for an overnight event, give him or her pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes and paper. Encourage your child to write you a letter, which can be less emotional and double as an educational tool.

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