Isolation and unfamiliar surroundings often trigger feelings of homesickness.

Reason for Teens Feeling Homesick

by Nannette Richford

Teens may dream about how wonderful it will be to get away from home for the first time, but they often give little thought to what that will really entail. For many, the pit in the stomach that announces they are missing home comes as a surprise. Feeling homesick is a natural response to being away from familiar surroundings and is commonly experienced by teens who have left home.

1. Unfamiliar Surroundings

Separation from a usual environment, even for a few days, can trigger feelings of loneliness, causing your teen anxiety and distress. For a teen, missing the love and support of his parents may be part of the equation. However, homesickness may also embody the desire to sleep in his own bed, listen to his own music and play with the family pet. Unfamiliar sounds, sights and smells may trigger feelings of isolation, especially if your teen has difficulty making new friends.

2. Changes in Routine

Teens often develop daily routines ranging from hogging the bathroom in the morning to sneaking into the kitchen for that late-night snack. When your teen is suddenly faced with sharing the bathroom space with new people or is expected to eat only at meal time, she may feel out of place and have difficultly adapting to a new routine. These changes may cause her stress as she begins longing for the familiar routine of home.

3. Lack of Preparation

A 2007 report published in the journal Pediatrics by Christopher A. Thurber, Ph.D., Edward Walton, M.D. and the Council on School Health revealed that lack of preparation or understanding about what homesickness is, is a major contributor to the severity of homesickness. Thurber, lead author and research consultant to the American Camp Association, explains that it is more effective to prepare teens for feelings of homesickness than it is to deal with the symptoms as they occur. Knowing that being homesick is normal and that nearly everyone experiences it can alleviate worries for teens.

4. Additional Factors

Teens who have spent little time away from home before heading off to college or an extended stay away from home may have a more difficult time than their peers who are experienced with time away from home. Teens who have not experienced short stays away from home or talked about strategies to deal with homesickness, such as making new friends, calling or texting home and engaging in enjoyable activities, might face more difficulty when they do leave the comfort of home. Parents often inadvertently add to their teens feelings of homesickness by referring to their own fears as their child grows away from them. Comments such as "What will I do without you?" may cause sensitive teens to worry about the well-being of their parent, compounding the feelings of homesickness.

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