Combating homesickness

By Ann Griswold • Published: April 13th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Homesickness can really take the fun out of an adventure.

If you’ve ever embarked on a solo trip, you know what a pain it can be to navigate unfamiliar territory, introduce yourself to new people and adjust your daily routine. But for the millions of youngsters who head off to summer camp, college or a new school each year, these real-world responsibilities can seem unbearable.

When children leave their safety net of family and friends, it’s natural for them to experience loneliness or anxiety. But homesickness doesn’t have to be a showstopper. According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, the best remedy begins before the child even leaves home.

Child psychologists say the secrets to preventing homesickness are simple: preparation, planning and practice. Children who feel involved in the decision to leave home… and who know what to expect during their adventure… often cope better.

These new guidelines were developed by a psychologist and a physician… childhood friends who first met at summer camp. They recommend arming children with anti-homesickness strategies before any separation: Practice writing letters, and pack note-cards and self-addressed, stamped envelopes in case loneliness strikes.

If possible, visit the new place beforehand. Introduce the child to other people, and become familiar with the setting.

Above all, parents should maintain a positive attitude. Experts say contingency plans are a bad idea, because they convey uncertainty about the child’s survival skills. Confidence and preparation are the best ways to ensure an anxiety-free experience.