Homesickness – Part 2: How to help a child with homesickness

When homesickness sets in, consider using these ideas to help.

If you’re a camp counselor, host of an overnight slumber party or provide supervision to youth who are spending the night, it’s likely you’ll experience a child that will encounter homesickness. If you haven’t encountered it yet, the likelihood that you will is pretty good. In Part 1 about homesickness, you may have learned that homesickness happens when a youth has feelings of sadness about missing a person they care for or their home.

As someone who is responsible for the safety and care of a child who may be experiencing homesickness, it’s a good idea to have a plan of what to do. As the role model, counselor or parent in the situation, you are probably viewed as someone who can help make the situation better. That often requires a plan.

In an article by Cynthia Feeney, “Strategies for Handling Homesickness,” written for Summer Camp Resources, the following suggestions are given to help a homesick camper:

  • Talk to the camper. Find out how they want to feel. Would they rather feel happy instead of lonely? Discuss what they envision they’re doing when happy versus what they’re doing when lonely.
  • Set goals. Ask them what they want out of their camp experience, such as to have fun, meet friends or try new things, and offer ways to help them focus on their goals rather than their homesickness. If they like art, for example, make sure they attend the camp’s art clinic or introduce them to the counselor in charge of the art program.
  • Provide coping strategies. If they start to feel homesick, establish a way they will cope with their feelings. They can write a letter home about their fun activities or talk to you or another camper about their homesick feelings.
  • Consult your immediate supervisor or camp director for help. They have dealt with many homesick campers and most are happy to offer some support to you and the camper.

Another coping strategy is to discuss ahead of time a physical item that can be taken with the child to camp that will help the child to be strong. Such items may include a coin, stuffed animal, photograph or item of clothing. Homesickness can be difficult, not only for the youth experiencing the feelings, but also for the parent, counselor and other campers. Be sure to have a plan for how to ease a homesick child.

Other Michigan State University Extension articles in this series:

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