Whether you’re a children’s leader traveling with other people’s kids or a parent sending your own kids someplace, this summer you’ll likely encounter one of the most crippling illnesses a child can face: homesickness.
Homesickness is normal, especially for young kids, and can stop a child from enjoying their experience to the fullest. A homesick child tends to miss out on the joys of getting away. As a parent or children’s leader, there are some basic things you can do to help combat homesickness:
As a children’s leader:
- Be a great listener. Children battling homesickness often feel lost in the shuffle and only need an ear, a hug, and a reminder that it will be okay.
- Remind homesick kids that their parents love them and want them to have a great time at camp. A simple reminder can make a huge difference.
- Remind them that their parents will be waiting when they get home in just a few more days and they should enjoy the time they have left. Time goes by fast!
- Try asking what their favorite thing was about the day and remind them of all the fun they’re having.
As a parent:
- Call and check in occasionally, but try to encourage your childrens independence. Don’t suggest homesickness to them or tell them about all the great things they’re missing out on by being gone.
- Remind them that you love them and miss them also, but will be there waiting when they get home in just a few days.
- Send them with familiar objects that remind them of home like a blanket or teddy bear. As a child, my parents always stuck letters and photos of my family in my suitcase when I traveled. Their encouraging words reminded me that they loved me and were proud of me for trying fun, new things.
- If your child calls upset, don’t immediately jump to offering to come get your child. This is a valuable time to teach your children to enjoy being away and yet love coming home. Don’t cave immediately, but give them a chance to push through. Homesickness usually clears up very quickly.
No matter your role, the most important thing to remember when dealing with a homesick child is to not make it worse. Homesickness normally doesn’t last long and can be an opportunity for positive growth. Don’t make the situation sound more grave, but rather always try to remind them of all the fun they are missing out on by not enjoying their time away.