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Coping With Homesickness

Homesickness is not merely a figment of imagination. The feelings associated with it, can be bigger than life. Experts opine that homesickness can be prevented or tackled// at the very onset, preventing it from snowballing into an intense form.

A recent study shows that approximately 90 per cent of children who leave home to be part of some camp feel miserable and homesick. This happens more often when children leave home for the first time. One out of fourteen may experience severe symptoms like lack of appetite, and difficulty in falling asleep. Intensely homesick children just cannot shake away thoughts about their home.

Christopher Thurber, the lead researcher of this study is a staff psychologist with Phillips Exeter Academy, a residential school in New Hampshire. He opines that at every camp and boarding school, teachers and staff make every effort to deal with severe forms of homesickness by trying out different ways to ease the pain for a child tugged by homesickness. However, it does not go away easily. The researchers opine that this is more easily tackled if the children are prepared mentally beforehand. Prevention is indeed better than cure.

The results of this research is published in the January issue of Peadiatrics.It offers valuable cues to parents to help their children to make the first transition away from them and their familiar surrounding. Thurber and his co- author Dr. Edward Walton, from the University of Michigan point out that it helps children tremendously to be prepared about what they would experience when away from home for an overnight camp or longer stay. They need to be reassured that it is normal to feel homesick. They should be egged to keep in touch by penning a few lines home. They should be encouraged to spend a night away from home with a relative at some point, encouraged to talk about their fears to camp counselors even if they are strangers to them. Charting out the time span away from home o n a calendar also helps a child to comprehend how long his stay away is going to be. Children should be reminded to take all medicines on time if they are on prescription medicines. Homesickness strikes very often when children are admitted in hospitals for treatment of medical conditions that need hospital care. It’s often seen affecting children who leave home for higher studies. Children who are homesick often get depressed and find it difficult to adjust to the new environment and feel that their control over the situation is slipping. These are the warning signs.

The authors of this study urged that parents and family physicians should foster confidence in children as they prepare to leave home to stay in a new environment for different purposes. Staff at camps, boarding schools, and other authorized hospital staff should be ready to help treat, homesickness once the children step into the new environment.
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