Sometimes you just want to get away. Your older brother and his friends are constantly camped in front of the TV, your baby sister won't stay out of your room, and you want some time to yourself.
But when you get it — maybe at a friend's house for an all-weekend DVD marathon or on spring break at Disney World — you're surprised to find yourself missing the chaos at home a bit.
What's that all about? Believe it or not, you're feeling homesick.
When you're homesick, you might feel nostalgic for familiar things like your family, friends, pets, house, or neighborhood. You can miss something as simple as your bed or the tree outside your window.
Homesickness isn't only for kids: Practically everyone feels homesick from time to time, even adults. Teens might get homesick when they leave home for the first extended period of time, like during a vacation with a friend's family or a summer job as a camp counselor. Going off to college is another common trigger.
Why Do I Feel This Way?
Familiar surroundings, people, and routines provide a sense of security and comfort. In a new place, you may find yourself missing the comforts of home and loved ones. Those homesick feelings are completely normal.
Some people may only feel a little loneliness, sadness, or anxiety. Others may feel physical symptoms, like stomachache or headache, or even become truly depressed. Most of the time, once the new surroundings and people become more familiar, feelings of homesickness go away. But if you are feeling overwhelmed, it's a good idea to seek help from the school or camp counselor.
If you have additional stress in your life — like a divorce or a death in the family — homesickness can be more intense. When you're coping with other loss or change, you'll feel especially attached to things that bring you comfort and miss them more when you're not around them.
Tips for Dealing With It
Luckily, homesickness is usually mild and doesn't last long. And you can do some things to make sure it doesn't spoil your fun:
- Try a trial run. Before heading off for a summer at music camp or a vacation at your aunt and uncle's ranch, spend the night or weekend at a friend's house a few times to get the feel of being in a new place. That can ease you into spending time away from home and lessen the shock of sleeping in a strange bed or being around different people. And like learning anything new, you'll get better at it each time you do it.
- Bring something that reminds you of home. Pack photos or letters or a favorite stuffed animal, sleep shirt, or pillow. When you start longing for familiar faces and places, you'll have a little bit of home right there with you.
- Call home when you can. This probably seems obvious, but during extended stays away, a quick call to hear your dad's voice or your sister's story about bathing the dog can be comforting. You might want to arrange a time to call or even visit (if you'll be gone for a while) so you'll have something to look forward to.
- Do something you enjoy. When you're having fun, you're less likely to spend time thinking about people and things you miss.
- Talk to a friend, ideally someone who's going through the same experience you are. Knowing you're not the only one dealing with this can take the sting out of feeling a little lonely, and you might feel better when you cheer up someone else.
- Write in a journal. Putting your feelings down on paper can help you understand them. Maybe writing about homesickness will show you what you really miss, whether it's your cat or the smell of waffles on Saturday mornings. Then you can find a way to ease that ache, like asking your parents to send a picture of your pet.
- Stay active. If you sit on the sidelines, you'll have more time to think about feeling sad. Talk to people and throw yourself into activities, and before you know it, you'll be too busy to be homesick.
- Review your expectations. Sometimes feelings of sadness may also be feelings of disappointment when a camp, school, or trip doesn't live up to your dreams. You may need to readjust what it is that you want to get out of your experience.
- Talk to an adult. Missing your family and home is normal. But if after a couple of days away you're having trouble eating or sleeping or you're not interested in doing anything, talk to an adult you trust about your feelings. That person can help you work through this tough time.
Almost everyone has felt homesick at some time. Remember that there's a good side to homesickness, too: It means you have family and friends worth missing and a place you want to return to when your adventure away from home is over.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: April 2012
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