A Moment of Science

Feeling Sick, Away from Home

Can homesickness actually make your kids sick? Here's how parents can help.

sad girl sits in a chair hugging stuffed animal

Photo: Antoine Khater

For some kids homesickness is almost like a form of depression.

Have you ever been away from home as a kid and felt homesick?

Did you know that for some kids, and even young adults going away to college, homesickness can be a debilitating problem?

If you’ve never been away from home before, that first time can be an ordeal. For some kids it’s almost like a form of depression. They stay in bed, lose sleep, stop eating regular meals, and pine for home so much that they basically shut down.

There are, however, some things that parents can do to help.

A recent report lays out some guidelines. First, you should give your kids practice in being away from home, like spending the night at a friend’s house or staying with grandparents. It’s important to never offer or agree to pick kids up before the visit is supposed to end. Kids need to know that mom and dad can’t rescue them the moment they start feeling homesick. Finally, and most importantly, parents should involve kids in the planning. Discuss exactly how long they’re going to be at camp or school, and that it’s normal to miss home and family.

Discussing the time away from home, and setting out some rules can give kids useful ways to deal with missing home.

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