Homesickness, sometimes described as nostalgia, can afflict anyone—young or old. That said, children often experience worse symptoms because:
- They cope less effectively with new situations;
- They are not yet emotionally independent;
- They spend less time away from home and are thus ill-rehearsed at overcoming homesickness.
When travelling as a family, homesickness is easier to suppress since your kids have accompaniment. If you were to uproot them entirely (i.e. summer camp), the child would lose his or her support base. But even with your help, homesickness can be a big challenge. If handled incorrectly, you will only exacerbate the symptoms.
Symptoms of Homesickness
Homesickness affects everyone differently. Its severity depends on the personality and situation. For example, an extended vacation will likely produce fewer symptoms than a permanent relocation. Still, you can expect the same symptoms to surface over time:
- Loss of appetite,
- And depression.
Interestingly, homesickness stems from a desire for love, connection and security—not the home itself. This is why coping mechanisms work: they help fulfill these emotional needs.
Remedies for Homesickness
To best homesickness, match the coping mechanism with the symptom. For example, urging your kids to keep in touch with people back home can ease feelings of loneliness. Likewise, maintaining routine can reduce their stress and anxiety.
- Bring an anchor—an anchor is an item that can remind or connect your child of/with home. For example, packing a favourite stuffed animal or pillow can be a helpful sentiment.
- Participate in home-like activities—a family trip needn’t be a huge departure from everyday life. Huge adjustments to routine can cause homesickness.
- Experience new things—sometimes comfort prevents people from overcoming their homesickness. Anxiety often signals personal development, so avoiding high-stress situations may actually prevent your kids from getting used to time away from home. Not to mention, new things pose as distractions.
- Involve your kids in planning—when children feel forced from their homes, it can trigger homesickness. By involving them in planning, they can prepare more positively.
- Keep in touch—encouraging your kids to write letters or Skype with friends and family can be a good way to reconnect them with home.