Feeling a Little Homesick
5 things to know about helping them cope when homesick
We got the first call on Sunday evening. I could hear the exhaustion in his cries. He wanted to come home. This week is my son's first big adventure away from home for more than a couple nights and to unchartered territory. After a fun family beach vacation with his grandmother, aunts and uncles, and lots of cousins, he went back home with an aunt and uncle and two cousins, and his grandmother. The plan, visit for a week exploring their digs.
The first night and couple days went well. He was with his cousins having fun, mind occupied. But by Sunday evening, tiredness set in, and when it was just him and Gramma the surroundings overwhelmed. He has visited his grandmother's house before, but he was a baby. We see her a few times throughout the year, but meet at the family beach house. To him, the family beach house is her house.
We got the second call of tears Tuesday night. A new place without mom and dad for a week after a week at the beach running hard has my guy craving his routine. He misses home, he's homesick (a word I don't think he even knew until this week) and he wants to come home today. I get it, but here I am presented with another new "how do I handle this" mom situation.
On the one hand, I feel sad for my guy. His dad and I told him we miss him and that we understand being homesick and it happens to the best of us and it's OK. But the flip side of that pity was feeling like I am caving in. Life is about the challenges and adjusting to new things. I remember as child feeling homesick more than once. First camp experience was not a fun one for me. So I totally get how he's feeling, but I know deep down inside that he's having a blast by day and just exhausted at night and then comes the freak out. So I encouraged him to calm down, think about the fun he's having, watch a cartoon with Gramma and get some sleep and tomorrow is a new day. He said "I want to come home."
After the phone call, I did a little research to see what advice exists on coping with homesickness for a child. I was happy to see I wasn't totally off base in my approach. If you have a child at summer camp or spending time away from home for the first time this summer, keep these things in mind if you get the call of tears about missing home.
1. Let your child know it is normal to feel homesick. Home is where the heart is. (And feel good that your child misses home, you and your family routine.)
2. Express confidence in your child's resilience. (I did this!)
3. Empathize, but don't inject fear or anxiety of your own.
4. Don't call and check in everyday. Give your child time to adjust and be away from you. (This is why camps have a policy in place that keeps the lines of communication to a letter).
5. Be sure to pack a favorite stuffed animal or other item with your child before they leave. It's always good to carry a little piece of comfort from home.
And finally, I'm adding, don't beat yourself up if they do call homesick. I'm feeling a range of emotions over it, but am happy knowing he misses home, and hope he'll have a new appreciation for our usual routine.