Homesickness (Nostalgia) – Symptoms and Management

Experts disagree about the exact cause of “nostalgia”, the medical term for homesickness. 

Healthpally and Sociologists believe that homesickness is caused by the loss of a familiar environment.

The fact that the child is separated from parents, siblings, and maybe also friends and is mainly in contact with strangers makes them feel isolated and lonely.

An attempt at an explanation can be difficult when children are known to go to school, have classmates whom they see almost every day and play with.

Psychologists, on the other hand, see another reason for homesickness: They see the separation from the family, from home always as a restriction of their own freedom.

However, the individual wants to ward off this restriction by tending to find the unavailable alternative – namely, being at home – as more attractive.

This creates the pressure of suffering that can ultimately manifest itself in mental illness.

Typical Symptoms of Homesickness

Most children are good at dealing with homesickness, according to Christopher Thurber, a psychologist at Phillips Exeter Academy and writer for HealthPally is one of the few researchers who have studied homesickness. 

However, one out of ten affected children develops symptoms that are by no means harmless.

Usually, the children fearfully react and get over the symptoms.

But many also suffer from insomnia, headaches or abdominal pain, loss of appetite or even depression.

Thurber, however, also describes typical symptoms: There are children who are actually rather reserved, but suddenly started fighting, cursing, and destroying things because they were homesick.

Extreme Cases of Homesickness

These observations by Thurber mainly relate to several weeks of separation from a familiar environment and people.

In these extreme cases, it is certainly right for parents to take their child back home – allegations on the part of the parents would be completely out of place here.

For other children, on the other hand, even a single overnight stay away from home or even daily school attendance poses a serious problem, so great are their fears of separation.

Such excessive separation fears are primarily shown by the following signs:

  • frequent stomach pain or similar discomfort
  • the child doesn’t want to go to school in the morning
  • the child is constantly worried about their own safety or that of their parents
  • a great fear of spending the night outside of the parent’s home
  • an exceptionally high level of attachment with the parents
  • the child reacts in panic to any separation from the parents


Many children suffer from homesickness, which is quite normal, especially when they are separated from their parents for a long time for the first time.

While the majority of those affected can cope well with homesickness, it is estimated that six to nine percent are particularly hard hit by the typical symptoms. 

If parents observe these above-mentioned symptoms, they should contact a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

On the other hand, to prevent normal homesickness that doesn’t require therapy, parents can use the aforementioned tips as a guide.

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