” I want to go home !” If parents hear this sentence from their crying child, who is on a school trip, holiday camp or summer camp at the time of the phone call, the heart naturally becomes heavy. The perplexed parents then ask themselves the questions: “ Why is my child suddenly so homesick ?” And “ What can we do so that our child can enjoy the school trip or vacation trip without parents ?”. Or what to do if the child is in tears days and weeks before the upcoming school trip and is downright panic about leaving their familiar surroundings?
In this article we will address these questions and we will provide you with the best tips on how to take away your child’s homesickness and, in the best case, even prevent it completely, so that the time on the school trip is fondly remembered.
Where does homesickness come from?
Most children look forward to adventures with friends weeks in advance and look forward to the parent-free time. While there is still a lively and excited mood on arrival as well as on arrival at the holiday resort, one or the other child suddenly feels sad and anxious in the evening or at night, which in this case is referred to as homesickness. But where does the feeling of longing for home come from and that afflicts younger children in particular? Many psychologists and scientists have studied this question and found various answers to it.
Homesick children who are far away from home and on a school trip, for example, suffer from a feeling of being “unfamiliar” that is pronounced for them. They are torn from their familiar surroundings, which in turn can express itself as fear and a feeling of being lost. The fact that the children are together with their classmates and friends on the school trip and they experience new adventures together does not change that. If the children are still overtired or have quarreled with one of their classmates, the homesickness is usually all the worse and the children concerned want nothing more than to go home again.
When does homesickness become more pronounced?
Homesickness in children is not uncommon: Experts estimate that every tenth child who is temporarily separated from their parents and from their familiar surroundings is very homesick. There is evidence that some children are more prone to being homesick. Younger children are usually more homesick because the bond with their parents is usually more intense. But not only because of age, but also in the following examples, the susceptibility to homesickness in children is increased:
- Children in difficult life situations (for example, parents divorce, death of a close family member or move to a new city)
- Pubescent children
- Shy and withdrawn children who find it difficult to make friends and who have few or no friends in their class
- Dependent and very affectionate children
Furthermore, it makes a difference whether the children have already stayed with their grandparents or with a friend before the school trip. Children who have never slept away or spent a night without their parents develop fears and insecurities more quickly as soon as they are no longer in their familiar surroundings. In addition, it plays a role that should not be underestimated whether the child takes part in the school trip voluntarily or feels compelled to do so and accordingly feels “pushed away” by his parents. The children are then often vulnerable and react negatively to changes, which can be expressed as homesickness.
In many cases, homesickness occurs on the first occasion, i.e. the first night away or the first school trip, but this does not mean that “travel-experienced” children cannot suffer from it. Even children who have already stayed with grandma and grandpa or a friend several times are not polished to get homesick on a school trip, although the probability is lower. For example, if the school trip goes differently than expected because there was an argument with a classmate, homesickness can occur more quickly because the children perceive the situation as negative.
Symptoms of homesickness
Most of the time, the children can cope with a mild form of homesickness, but symptoms of stress can nonetheless arise. These usually take the form of tearfulness, withdrawnness or irritability. In some cases, the longing for home can even express itself with physical symptoms and the children suffer more from headache and stomachache, toothache, nausea, loss of appetite and sleep disorder.
In other children, homesickness can manifest itself through aggressive and dismissive behavior towards classmates, teachers and supervisors. This behavior occurs more frequently in children in particular, who normally stand out due to their reserved and rather reserved manner. The severity of the symptoms depends primarily on the age and personality of the child and personal circumstances.
7 tips for parents against homesickness
If you as parents are unsure and are worried about the upcoming school trip, this will automatically be carried over to your child. For this reason, it is important that you give your child security, confidence and serenity before starting the school trip. Remember that your child will have an exciting time, which in turn has a positive effect on their personality.
We have put together other valuable tips for you that have proven themselves in homesickness and that you can use preventively:
1. Talk about the upcoming school trip
It is essential that you talk to your child about the details, such as the whereabouts, the planned program and the entire process, before the start of the class trip. Take a look at the program of the class trip together and you can look at photos of the place of residence on the Internet so that your child can get an idea in advance. In addition, you should only use positive formulations so that your child is prepared to be excited and curious about the upcoming adventure and no uncertainty arises in the first place.
2. Correct behavior on the day of departure
As soon as the big day has come and the school trip begins, it is important that you do not create any drama when you say goodbye and that your child does not feel your sadness. It is neither appropriate to burst into tears nor to convey urgently to your child that you will miss him immortally. At least stay brave in the presence of your child and wish them a safe journey. You should also motivate your child by assuring them that they will have an exciting and fun time on the school trip.
3. Practice spending the night away from home
Before your child is separated from you for several days in a row, sleeping outside of your own four walls and without you parents should be practiced step by step. Most children like to spend the night with their grandparents or their best friend or best friend. If you stay the night without any problems, the night can turn into a whole weekend. Over time, your child will find it increasingly easier to be away from home for the foreseeable future and separation anxiety is no longer omnipresent.
4. Pack familiar item
Make it clear to your child that your intimate emotional connection will always persist even during your absence. By giving your child their favorite cuddly toy, a family photo or a cuddly pillow on the school trip, for example, you give them the feeling that their home is always within reach despite a distance. In addition, a personal item can give comfort and remind of parents and home. On the other hand, you should avoid long letters in which you emphasize how much you miss your child in their absence, so as not to aggravate any homesickness.
5. Involve teachers
If you already know in advance that your child suffers from separation anxiety and that homesickness is therefore obvious on the upcoming class trip, you should talk to the teacher before the trip. In this way, your child can build trust in the accompanying teacher and, in case of homesickness, turn to them with their fears and worries.
6. Correct behavior in the event of acute homesickness
If your child has started the school trip in a good mood and full of anticipation and calls you unexpectedly and in tears, one thing applies first: Keep calm and let your child explain in detail why they are so homesick. It is very important to take your child’s worries and fears seriously and let them finish speaking, because acute homesickness should not be taken lightly. Often it already helps the children that they can talk to you openly and let their tears run free. As soon as they catch up again, the world usually looks friendlier again.
Do not offer your child to pick them up straight away, but find out what the reason for the homesickness is and talk to the teacher if necessary. Also agree with your child that they try to hold out for a few more days and encourage them. You should also go into the great experiences that your child has already had during the class trip. In this way you draw your child’s attention to the positive aspects of the school trip or holiday camp. In addition, ask the accompanying teachers or the supervisors present to keep an eye on your child and take care of them.
As difficult as it may be, you shouldn’t get too upset or immediately consider picking up your child. Instead, keep in regular contact with your child, for example by talking to each other on the phone once a day. Talking to you makes your child feel more secure and also has the feeling that you are not that far away from them.
7. Pick up only in an emergency
In most cases the children get used to the new situation very quickly and their classmates and the many excursions and activities tend to distract them from their homesickness. However, not all children can enjoy the orphaned days; some children are homesick and fearful of separation that are so pronounced that the child should be picked up immediately in order to prevent psychological damage. However, you shouldn’t offer your child before the start of the trip to bring them home as soon as they are homesick.
Although this is meant nicely and should convey security, your child will get the feeling that you don’t trust them to cope with homesickness. Children need challenges in order to grow with them and to sustainably strengthen their self-confidence. Instead, encourage your child and convey credibly that you will not let them down and that they can always rely on you. If your child has “survived” the school trip, however, you do not need to save on praise.
Further tips for homesickness:
- Discuss in advance how, how often and when you will be in contact with your parents.
- Put together contact and emergency addresses and give them to your child on a school trip or to the holiday camp.
- Before starting the school trip, talk to your child about their ideas and expectations of the trip.
- Explain to your child that occasional homesickness is completely normal and that this feeling will go away on its own.
- Tell your child how you dealt with homesickness when you were old.
- Create a packing list for the school trip adventure together to increase the anticipation.
Don’t force children
If your child is already very afraid of the school trip in advance, it should not be forced to start. However, you shouldn’t accept your child’s decision immediately either. Instead, talk to your child about their fears and worries and ask why they don’t want to take part in the school trip. Often behind the fear of the school trip is the fear of arguing with his classmates or not getting along with the other participating children.
However, if your child cannot change his mind at all and has real panic at the thought of the school trip, you must take this behavior seriously and accept the “no”. In order to find out why your child is suffering from massive separation anxiety, you should seek therapeutic help if necessary.