The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

August 28, 2013

Homesickness can strike students of any age, says Geisinger doc

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

DANVILLE — Back to school blues can affect students of any age, from kindergarten to college, and it can leave them longing for the comforts of home.

“Homesickness is defined as the distress that comes about when there is a separation from home or anticipating a separation from home,” said Dr. Nicole Quinlan, a pediatric psychologist at Geisinger Medical Center. “It can really happen across the lifespan. Even adults who have moved far away for the first time can experience homesickness.”

Homesickness can manifest as a mix of depression, anxiety, sadness or worry about the people and places from which a person is removed. These can also become physical ailments such as headaches, Quinlan said.

“It can impact functioning – if a kid is at school, college or a camp, they may have trouble doing the things that are there.”

For younger children, it’s best for an adult to be optimistic. If this is their first year at school, parents should tell them about all the exciting things they’ll experience that they couldn’t at home. Avoid talking about school as being scary or hard. Arranging times to visit the school in advance, such as during an open house, can help a child feel more familiar with the setting, as can meeting for a play date with future or current classmates.

Reminding them that mom and dad will still be around when they come home can help as well, Quinlan added.

For college-aged students, some of the same tips can be followed, in regards to becoming more familiar with a new location or the people there. Parents should be careful not to accidentally increase worry, and should avoid phrases such as “I don’t know what I’m going to do without you,” Quinlan said. This can just lead to guilty feelings of the student who is moving away.

Planning ahead for contacts to home, such as by email or phone, can also be helpful, Quinlan said. “A college student who has never been away from home may be more likely to be homesick when they first leave.”


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