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When you sleep somewhere else - like at summer camp or a friend's house - you know you're in for a fun time. It can be exciting to get away from the same old bed in the same old room in the same old house. And you get to hang out with your friends!
But fun as this is, for some kids, being away from home can be scary and sad. They want to go and have fun with their friends, but once they're there, they start to miss their good old bed, their good old parents, and all that everyday stuff at home. It's called being homesick.
Maybe you were at a sleepover when someone ended up calling their mom and going home early. Or maybe you've done this yourself. If so, it's OK. But you might want to know how you can feel less homesick, so next time you can stick around and enjoy the party. Let's find out.
When you're homesick, you're not sick in the usual way - like with a cold or chickenpox. Homesick means you're upset, sad, and maybe scared. A kid might cry when he or she is homesick. You might also have a headache or stomachache because being upset can sometimes make your body feel bad, too.
It's hard to be homesick because you're caught between two things you want - to have fun with your friends and to be back home where you feel safe. It's also hard because you might feel funny leaving a party or having to call your mom or dad from camp. But don't feel weird. A lot of people get homesick, even grown-ups.
When you're used to having certain people and things around you, it can be scary when they're gone. How will you fall asleep at your friend's house without your night-light and the sound of your mom watching TV in the next room? Won't it be weird at camp without your dad to give you a kiss goodnight?
Feeling homesick can be even rougher if you're dealing with other problems, too. Some kids may feel more homesick than usual if their parents are getting divorced or if someone they loved has recently died. These kinds of scary and sad experiences may make you even more attached to everyone and everything around you, including the little things you don't even think about until they're not there.
Are you ready for the good news? You can help yourself feel less homesick. Here's how:
If you're going away from home, bring your pillow or your favorite pajamas. Or maybe you have a favorite bedtime snack. If you're going to camp, maybe your mom or dad could pack it in your suitcase. You can also bring pictures of the people you'll be apart from and look at them any time you want.
The more fun stuff you do, the less time you'll have to feel homesick. Try to join in activities wherever you are. If you're at camp, sign up for that kayak race and be sure to go to the Friday night dance. At a sleepover, play the games and do all the crazy dances! Even if you're not completely into it at first, you might soon start to have a good time.
This one is tricky because if you spend all your time on the phone with your parents, then you won't have time for any sleepover fun. But you can make a plan for when you'll call your mom or dad. For an overnight visit, maybe you can call once that night and again in the morning when you're ready to be picked up. With camp, you might set a regular day and time for a phone call home. You can also email or text message to stay in touch with family and friends. And if you're going to be away for a while, you might even go retro and write a letter to send through snail mail! When you do get in touch with someone, make sure to tell them about the fun things you're doing!
Sometimes, just telling someone that you're feeling a little homesick will help you feel better. Maybe you can tell a friend that you feel homesick and the two of you can do something fun - like have a burping contest or tell each other jokes. If you're at camp, a camp counselor would be a good person to talk with. He or she might have some ideas to help you feel better.
For some kids, homesickness sticks around even when they try hard to fight it. They really need to talk with their parents about the problem. Tell your mom or dad if you're so upset you can't sleep, eat, or do your usual stuff. Some kids feel very scared to be away from their parents. That's something that they can work on, but they might need some help from a psychologist or counselor.
One strategy is to practice being away from home if you know you're going away. It's like when you were learning how to ride a bike and you started out using training wheels. Try spending the afternoon at a friend's house before you stay for the whole night. Or go to a summer day camp before you decide to try sleepaway camp.
These shorter trips can help you feel more confident and comfortable. They also might help you figure out what you miss most. Then you can make a plan - like deciding to call your mom at a certain time - or to bring a stuffed animal from your bed at home.
You can learn to feel less homesick. We really hope you do. Why? So you don't miss out on all those adventures waiting for you!
Reviewed by: W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
Date reviewed: June 2005