Children are more prone to homesickness than adults. The reason being that their life is centered around their family and the moment that safety net is taken away children do feel insecure.
This occurs when they are away from their home even if it is with the grandparents, camp movements, spending the night with anyone other than with your immediate family. New surroundings with unfamiliar people can cause this situation. Children find it difficult to handle this and they yearn for familiar surroundings, which causes homesickness.
At times even if the child settles down in the new surroundings, a small argument or disagreement will spark off homesickness. Homesickness can be contagious. When one child is homesick, it catches on and others become homesick too. It brings out an urge to go home.
Physical symptoms which are known as `somatization’ occur with reactions of ulcers, cramps, diarrhea, headaches, tense muscles, tears, vomiting, crying and withdrawal.
Homesickness, especially in children, should be taken seriously. Before you send your children off, it is best to tell your children that they are bound to miss home and that it is normal to feel like that. Until children are used to being away from home, they should not be sent to places where you cannot get them in a hurry. Calling them daily will reassure them that you are not too far away. Research states that 90 percent of children attending summer camp feel homesick and out of that 20 percent face a serious level of homesickness which requires attention.
Children who are going through homesickness should never be given too much attention from the caregivers. Getting them to sit on your knees and console them and giving them a treat will never make the situation better as their desire to go home will be even more. The correct way is to take away the child’s attention from homesickness and keep them busy. Homesickness is normal and every child goes through it.
Children who have sudden separation from parents due to unplanned situations such as hospitalization may go through moderate to severe homesickness that can interfere with the progress of recovery. It can become worse as children will be more sensitive to situations when they are going through homesickness and even a casual remark by a physician or nurse about not being able to go home on the anticipated date may cause distress.
Parents should arrange for practice time away from home, with grandparents or aunts and uncles when they are young by starting with a day away and increasing the days as they get used to being away.