“Homesick” is a Four-Letter Word
The idea of missing people, places and routines is actually a lovely sentiment–how lucky we are to have people and things to miss (and people to miss us) while we’re away! Labeling this as a “sickness” is a directly negative label to perfectly positive (and healthy) feelings.
When my oldest kiddo was around 2, I got cut off in traffic and said something inappropriate. Then I heard this little voice from the backseat say “Oh, buck!” (F’s are apparently hard for some kids?) Oops! We have all done this (and also probably laughed. Maybe we even retold the story multiple times!). These things happen–we are imperfect creatures. But when It does happen, we are often prompted to change what we say, how we say it, and when we say it. I realized that I needed to calm down with the swearing. I also realized that I was modeling being angry while driving, which is definitely not a habit I want to recreate in my own kids (we live in Boston! #IYKYK). Our kids will do and say and feel what we model for them.
There is no one way to help a kid get over homesickness. There are, however, a few things we can try to help shift kids’ mindsets.
- DO acknowledge and validate feelings, using THEIR words (unless they use the “H word”)
- DON’T bring up the topic yourself
- DO ask what they are looking forward to doing at camp (give some options if needed)!
- DON’T ask them if they will miss you (they will)
DO share your own positive memories of camp or other times & places where you were away from home
- DON’T share your “war stories” from camp or other times & places where you were away from home
- If you were homesick as a kid, DO be honest about it–but only if they ask you
- DON’T volunteer your own stories of homesickness
- DO focus on all of the wonderful and positive things kids get from camp
- DON’T remind them of what they will be missing
- DO write letters frequently
- DO let kids know what YOU have been doing
- DON’T let kids know what other kids at home are doing
- DO tell them you love them and that you miss them
- DON’T spend a lot of time telling them how much you miss them
- DO ask them questions about their days at camp
- DON’T tell them that if they are homesick you will come get them
- DON’T send packages
Finally, kids are very present-minded and are often concrete thinkers. For some kids, it may feel like if they miss home then they can’t be having a good time at camp. At the same time, they may feel like if they are having a good time at camp, then they must not miss home, which can induce feelings of guilt and anxiety. It might be difficult to walk and chew gum at the same time, but it CAN be done. Reminding our kiddos that they can have a great time and miss home all at the same time is a great life lesson, not just a camp lesson!
About the Author
Leah Hart Tennen
Leah Hart Tennen joins camp as the Community Care Director this summer. Leah grew up in Jackson, MS, but now lives just outside of Boston with her family–two of whom will be at camp for Session 2! When Leah’s not at camp, she teaches adults how to be social workers at a college in Boston, and for fun, she likes to listen to music and lift weights.
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