Homesickness is a form of anxiety that affects individuals of all ages and is equally as likely with males as it is with females. Homesickness does tend to be more common in children than it is in adults. Studies have shown that at least 83% of children and often more experience a mild form of homesickness when they go away to summer camp.
Homesickness is a form of separation anxiety from parents and can often lead to sadness, depression, crying, difficulties eating and sleeping and sometimes getting into mischief as a form of “attention-getting behavior.” Some children will experience physical manifestations of homesickness even when they are perfectly healthy. These symptoms may include sore throat, stomach cramps, headache, nausea, and minor aches and pains.
Coping mechanisms to prevent homesickness
- Do not decide to send your child to camp because you feel he needs to go, send him only if he wants to go. Never push him into anything and be aware that there is no magical age when a child automatically will be ready to go to camp and be away from mom and dad.
- Allow your child to play a role in the decision making process. Let your child look at the pamphlets and brochures or view the website about the camp. If it is possible, visit the camp ahead of time with your child and take the time to get to know some of the staff. Doing these things will help put your child’s mind at ease and will also give them an idea of what to expect.
- Always choose a camp that is well suited to your child’s likes and activities as well as one that will appeal to his own unique personality and even temperament.
- Discuss the camp with your child ahead of time and discuss the expectations you have for the separation that is soon to occur. Talk about why the child is going to summer camp or sleepaway camp and what you hope he will learn from his experience. Allow the child to express his feelings to you and answer all of his questions honestly. Provide useful information but never focus on the negative aspects of the upcoming camp experience. Instead instill a sense of excitement, enthusiasm and confidence in your child.
- Talk about the policies the camp has and when your child will be able to call you on the telephone and/or e-mail or write a letter home.
- If you suspect that your child may be a candidate for homesickness communicate your concerns to the camp staff when you drop your child off.
- Allow your child to help pack for camp and let him take a favorite toy, his pillow from home, a photo or two of the family or the family pet and any other memento from home that will help make him feel happy and secure while he is away.
- Make sure that you are cheerful and uplifting when the day to leave for camp arrives.