4 Ways to Help Your Child Handle Homesickness

Young girl on phone
Resist the temptation to call and check in on your child every hour. Establish a regular time for a 15-minute chat and stick to it. Getty Images

There are no cures for homesickness. It is a feeling which all of us encounter at some point or another. If your child is going off to boarding school, homesickness is bound to be something he has to deal with too.

Think about it. He has probably spent most of his life in familiar surroundings. He has friends and a routine. He knows where everything is. The refrigerator is full of his favorite beverages and snacks.

You prepare scrumptious meals. Your dinner table has always been a family time where he and his siblings enjoy each other's company.

Suddenly he is uprooted. About the only familiar things are his iPhone and his music. Even the clothes he has to wear during school hours are dictated by a dress code. What's more, his day is scheduled from dawn until lights out. He is going to miss doing what he wants when he wants. He is going to miss you, his brothers and sisters, the dogs and all his creature comforts. How do you get him over this hump?

Going off to boarding school is what the professionals call a planned separation. Reassure him by explaining that those feelings of missing familiar surroundings and his family are perfectly normal. Tell him about the times when you felt homesick and how you dealt with it. Need more advice? Check out these four tips.

1. Don't Allow Your Child to Call You Constantly.

This is a tough thing for a parent to do.

But you have to firmly lay down the ground rules for calling you. You also need to resist the temptation to call and check in on your child every hour. Establish a regular time for a 15-minute chat and stick to it. The school will have rules about when and where students can use cellphones.

2. Encourage Him to Make New Friends.

His adviser and dorm master will help him meet older students who will take him under their wings.

He will quickly make lots of new friends if you give him some room to do so. Remember: the school has dealt with homesick children for years. It will have a plan in place to keep him so busy that he probably won't realize he's homesick. Sports, all sorts of clubs and plenty of homework fill up most days. His dorm mates will soon become fast friends. It won't be long before you call at the appointed time and he tells you he's only got a minute before the swim club meets.

3. Don't Be a Helicopter Parent.

Of course you are there for him. But he needs to learn quickly that he has to adjust and cope. That's what life is about. He has to make decisions and abide by the consequences of those decisions. He has make choices on his own. He will never develop good judgment if you make all his choices and decide everything for him. Resist the temptation to be an over-protective parent. The school will act as his parent and protect him while he is in their care. That is their contractual responsibility.

4. Understand That It Takes Time to Adjust.

He has to learn new daily routines. His biorhythms will have to adapt to the new, somewhat inflexible schedule of boarding school.

Homesickness is typically a temporary phenomenon.

It passes within a few days. If, however, it does not pass and your child is extremely unhappy to the point of despair, don't ignore it. Speak with the school. Find out what they feel can be done. In the most extreme cases, withdrawal from school will be advised.

Incidentally, this is one more reason why it is so important for you and your child to get the fit right. If he is happy in his new surroundings, he will move past his feelings of homesickness very quickly.

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Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski