Homesickness – Part 1: What is it?

What is homesickness and how can it be avoided?

Summer isn’t over yet, and chances are your child is likely to still attend a camp. If you’re a parent who waited until the end of summer to send your child to camp because of homesickness, you’re not alone! Homesickness, whether it happens at camp, an overnight at a friend’s house or while visiting a grandparent, is a very real feeling.

Did you know that homesickness can occur in any aged youth, as well as adults? It happens whenever someone is separated from those they care most about, as well as their home. The effects of homesickness can vary from person to person. This happens because everyone has different ways of handling emotions as well as different levels of experience in staying overnight or away from those they care about and their home.

The American Camp Association suggests feelings of homesickness aren’t problematic until it becomes a preoccupation for the youth. They say that it’s OK to have feelings of sadness, but when that sadness and anxiety becomes so strong that it’s difficult to make friends, have fun, sleep, eat or participate in activities, something must be done.

What can be done? In an article from American Camp Association, “How to Choose a Camp: Homesickness,” they suggest a two-pronged approach:

  1. Prevent homesickness at home before it starts.
  2. Actively cope at camp.

As parents, the American Camp Association suggests the following at-home homesickness prevention strategies:

  • Work together as a family to select a camp, plan and pack.
  • Spend practice time away from home, such as a long weekend at a friend’s house.
  • Experiment with the best coping strategies during this practice separation.
  • Prepare pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes to bring to camp.

To help youth cope with feelings of homesickness while at camp, suggestions from the American Camp Association include:

  • Stay busy.
  • Talk with someone.
  • Remember that camp is just a few weeks long.
  • Write letters home.
  • Consider all of the fun activities the camp offers and try some of them.

This is the first article in a series about homesickness. The next article in this series will focus on what actions adults or camp staff can take to help a child with homesickness.

Other Michigan State University Extension articles in this series:

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