4 Ways to Help Your Child Handle Homesickness

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Kennedy, Robert. "4 Ways to Help Your Child Handle Homesickness." ThoughtCo, Sep. 1, 2017, thoughtco.com/homesickness-at-boarding-school-2774133. Kennedy, Robert. (2017, September 1). 4 Ways to Help Your Child Handle Homesickness. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/homesickness-at-boarding-school-2774133 Kennedy, Robert. "4 Ways to Help Your Child Handle Homesickness." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/homesickness-at-boarding-school-2774133 (accessed October 22, 2017).
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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

Any parent who has seen their child go off to boarding school, or even college, has likely experienced that dreaded phone call home. "I miss you. I want to come home." Homesickness is a natural, albeit challenging, reaction to being away from home for the first time. Unfortunately, there are no quick cures for homesickness, a feeling 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 or she has to deal with too.

Think about it. Most children have probably spent their lives mostly staying in familiar surroundings, with a group of close friends and a routine. They know where everything is and are comfortable in their surroundings. The refrigerator is full of their favorite beverages and snacks. Parents prepare scrumptious meals and the dinner table has always been a family time where they enjoy the company of family and even friends.

Suddenly, however, they are uprooted, finding themselves in an unfamiliar environment. In fact, likely the only familiar things are their iPhone and music. Even the clothes they have to wear during school hours are dictated by a dress code. What's more, their days are scheduled from dawn until lights out. They are going to miss doing what they want when they want. Your children are going to miss you, their brothers and sisters, the dogs and all their creature comforts.

So, how do you get them over this hump?

Going off to boarding school is what the professionals call a planned separation. Reassure your child by explaining that those feelings of missing familiar surroundings and family are perfectly normal. Tell them 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 Your Child to Make New Friends.

Your child's adviser and dorm master will help him or her meet older students who will take them under their wings, helping them to quickly make lots of new friends; if you give him or her some room to do so. Remember: the school has dealt with homesick children for years. It will have a plan in place to keep your child so busy that he or she probably won't have time to be homesick, especially in the first few days or weeks. Sports, all sorts of clubs and plenty of homework fill up most days. Dorm mates will soon become fast friends and it won't be long before you call at the appointed time and are told that he or she only has a minute before the swim club meets.

3. Don't Be a Helicopter Parent.

Of course, you are there for your child.

But he or she needs to learn quickly that it is necessary to adjust and cope. That's what life is about. Your child has to make decisions and abide by the consequences of those decisions. He or she has to make choices independently and not rely on you, the parent, to provide guidance constantly. Your child will never develop good judgment if you make all the choices and decide everything for him or her. Resist the temptation to be an over-protective parent. The school will act as a parent and protect your child while in their care. That is their contractual responsibility.

4. Understand That It Takes Time to Adjust.

Your child has to learn new daily routines and allow his or her biorhythms to adapt to the new, somewhat inflexible schedule of boarding school. Habits often take a month to develop and become second nature, so be patient and remind your child to stick with whatever challenges are arising.

It will get better.

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. 

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

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Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski