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【The Standard】Homesickness

School Guide


Homesickness among students at boarding school is not a new phenomenon; Charles Dickens famously chronicled the plight of homesick children in his chilling work, ‘Nicholas Nickleby’.  However, while the boarding schools of today bear scant resemblance to the prison-like edifice of Dickens’ Dotheboys Hall, homesickness is something that endures.  Having helped numerous pupils – and their parents! – through this, I offer the following tips:


1. Remember that homesickness is normal

Being away from home can be traumatic for even the most robust youngster.  Boys and girls can feel homesick; young and older children can feel homesick.  Missing family, friends and home is completely natural.


2. Homesickness seldom lasts very long

When your child seems to be in the depths of despair, try to remember that homesickness usually lasts only a matter of days, or a couple of weeks at worst.  In all my years teaching, not one child actually left school because of homesickness.  Similarly, I recall that the young boy who was most homesick suddenly bounced back one day and was happy and content as can be.


3. Timing

Homesickness can happen at any time, but the first flashpoint is after the first few weeks at a new school; once the novelty of things has worn off and routine and work begin to kick in, this is when pupils tend to miss home more.  Similarly, returning to school after Christmas, when the weather is cold and the days are short, can also cause students to feel more unsettled.


4. Get the full picture

There is nothing worse than having a telephone or skype conversation with a child in tears or very upset – and they will, of course tell you everything that is going wrong and how unhappy they are.  However, speak to their Housemaster, Housemistress, Matron or Tutor: they will be able to tell you whether or not this is an on-going problem.  It is often the case that your child is quite settled and happy for the other 23 hours and 50 minutes when they weren’t talking to you.


5. Help your child

Constantly ringing your child at school, or rushing to school when they seem to be folorn with homesickness, can be completely counter-productive.  Hearing your voice and those of family and friends will make them feel more homesick than they are normally – so when your child is feeling homesick, try to keep calls reasonably short.  If you need reassurance about how they are doing, check with their Housemaster/Housemistress instead.


However, sending them nice things – food, treats, photographs – will be a huge source of comfort.  Send them ‘care packages’ regularly.


Niall Browne is the Director of Schools Consultancy at Ascent Prep, Causeway Bay