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Homesickness - help required


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Good morning

 

I’ve been searching through the boards for help with homesickness and found some really useful threads but some of the experiences feel slightly different to ours and I’m not sure where to go from here. 
 

My child (MC) has started vocational school this year (year 7) and is really struggling with homesickness. The first 3 weeks we nearly threw in the towel but MC although feeling very unhappy wanted to carry on trying. So we persevered with a compromise of coming home each weekend to begin with. We’re now into the second half of the term and although things are improving very very slightly (from my point of view as MC has control of their emotions more now and isn’t constantly sobbing and begging to come home) they are nowhere near settled yet. 
 

We are now not picking them up for the first weekend (wish we’d done this last term as it feels as though they are starting from the beginning) as a bit of a make or break because weekly boarding is not feasible due to the distance and because it resets the clock every weekend with the homesickness. 
 

I appreciate all of this probably seems normal and what others have experienced however the bits we’re struggling with is that they cannot find any positives about their days at all. They like the school but don’t seem to love it. Currently they aren’t looking forward to the dancing or academics and certainly not the boarding so cannot see how to stay positive about it all. 
 

They are disappointed in themselves because this has been a dream for a few years and they worked really hard to get to this point and don’t want to give it up and regret it but just want to feel happy.

 

I don’t know if the not looking forward to it is normal because the homesickness is so overwhelming or if it’s an indicator that it’s just not right for them? 
 

Another kicker is that their roommates seem settled and happy and they can’t help but compare themselves. 
 

We’re taking it a term at a time and I’m proud of MC that they continue to be brave and persevere but I genuinely don’t know what to do next to help them.
 

Any help or experience of whether this is normal would be greatly appreciated. 

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I really struggling with homesickness at vocational school also. The only answer was coming home every weekend. Which was never the plan but we got all the family involved in pick up and drop off. I also found taking every day as it comes and make decision at end of term as to whether to carry on. I always choose to carry on. Although I spent most of the time saying I wanted to leave!!! It’s hard but when friendships get stronger it makes it easier. 

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My older dc really struggled to settle in y7, it wasn’t helped by an unsupportive ballet tutor making those lessons miserable. He probably would have jumped at the chance of coming home every weekend, to decompress a little, but it wasn’t an option really due to distance. He didn’t really settle until y8. However, he never wanted to move to a different school. There was enough about it that he enjoyed, to get him through the tougher days. I think if we’d seen that he wasn’t enjoying any of it or if he’d regularly been distressed on the phone to us, then we would have made the decision for him to come home. Children can’t always appreciate the long term implications of the decisions we make and sometimes we just have to make the unpopular choices for them. 

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4 minutes ago, Farawaydancer said:

There was enough about it that he enjoyed, to get him through the tougher days.

I think this is the bit that bothers me at the moment. There is a specific reason for not enjoying the ballet at the moment and it won’t be a permanent issue but it’s hard to see through it to know for sure that the enjoyment will come. 

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So sorry to hear your dc is struggling with homesickness. I know how heartbreaking it feels. My dd is year 8 and still cries the night before she goes home, on the journey back and before she arrives. It does break my heart!

 

However she is happy the majority of the time, loves the academics and the ballet. I suppose I would be a bit more concerned if there was no joy or happiness and if she wasn't happy in general as it sounds like might be the case here?  I'm not sure what the reasons are for the unhappiness with academics/ballet but are these likely to change? Have you spoken to the school about what is going on?

 

Definitely worth letting them know how it is making your DC feel and how much it is affecting their well being? Is she getting the nurture she needs at school - has she connected well with one of the house parents? 

I sometimes used to phone them and ask them to pop in and give my dd a cuddle if I knew she was feeling fragile/teary.

 

It is still early days and things can change but also there is no shame in bringing them home either, if that is what is best.

 

Sorry I'm not sure if that's at all helpful but thinking of you and sending you my best wishes, I know it is so very hard x ❤️ 

 

 

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@Raquellethere is some comfort in knowing that many DCs find it hard going back after exeat / holidays although it’s sad that this is the case. 
 

I had a good chat with house parents / ballet teachers last half term but it’s probably time to revisit that. There isn’t a house parent that they have connected with unfortunately but they do have some academic teachers that they trust and can talk too. 
 

The unhappiness with ballet should be a short term issue but it’s hard waiting for that to pass when it’s such early days and all new. There isn’t an issue with academics at all really more that they have got themselves in this sadness spiral so nothing is good.


When they are away from the school however they do talk about it more positively it’s just when they are there and messaging me morning and night with mostly doom and gloom. 
 

I’m trying to get them to a positive place so that they can really assess if it is for them or not rather than giving up now when there’s a few obstacles that might be overcome but it’s really hard trying to ease through this and know whether we’re doing the right thing. 

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Didn’t want to read and run, I hope this half term sees them settle a bit more. I can only imagine how much of an adjustment it must be for everyone. Sending lots of love to you all! 

 

I guess the thing to remember is that there isn’t just one path to following a dream - they clearly have the talent to pursue dance if they want to, so if it all does become too much I think it’s important to see it as an option explored - they can always go to a different school, continue to work hard at their dancing and try again in a few years. 
 

I do hope they settle and find their feet though, sometimes it just takes the right person to say the right thing at the right time and I hope they find that x 

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From what I have seen of my daughters' friends who have been homesick, the ones who sometimes feel a bit sad and otherwise love it improve and stay, but the ones who are constantly upset tend to leave in the end. Of course it will be different for every child, but there were some who were desperately unhappy for months and even years before finally leaving and becoming happy again, and I found that quite heartbreaking to watch. I think you need to be led by your child. If they insist that it's where they want to be, try and find ways to help them feel happier, but if there's a sense they really don't want to be there, don't make them go. They only have one shot at secondary school, and who wants it to be miserable.

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How heartbreaking for you and you child @Howdoyouknowwhentoquit.

 

I can't claim direct experience as my dd didn't go to vocational school until she was 16, but she still suffered with homesickness and in the end used to come home every weekend.  It worked for her, but was only possible because we weren't too far away and she was old enough to travel on her own.

 

As others have suggested I would reach out to the pastoral staff at the school and seek their help.  Make it clear that this is more than just a temporary blip and is becoming all consuming.  You really want to try to get them out of that negative spiral as soon as possible.

 

A couple of other ideas and thoughts:

  • Could you try to restrict the contact with you to say morning and early evening?  Homesickness is always worse the more tired they get, and contact with you late evening may not be helping them to get a good night's sleep.  Maybe speak to the house parents about how to make this happen
  • Send post - letters, postcards, something nice from home.  If you do this regularly it can become something for them to look forward to.
  • For a while, stop trying to look for the positives, take the approach of...let's just get through to the end of term and then we can think about whether it's the right place.  Make it clear that they don't have to stay if they don't want to.
  • Do tell them that other people will be feeling homesick too.  Just because their room mates appear settled doesn't mean that they are.  People can be very good at hiding how they feel
  • Are they being bullied?  Another one for the staff if you think this might be the case
  • Remember that some people struggle to settle at a normal secondary school without all the added stress of boarding.  There's a lot of change happening for your child so it's not surprising they are finding it tough.

If you get to the point of deciding that it isn't the right place for your child (probably a mutual decision between you and them) there is absolutely nothing wrong with you taking them out of that school.   If they still want to pursue a dancing career there are many other ways to make this happen.  Perhaps in the background you could start to explore what the options are if they do decide they don't want to continue at vocational school.  Look into what local school they could transfer to?  What options there might be for training closer to home?

 

Hope some of this might help a little.  You are not alone.

 

 

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Incidentally, everyone I know of who left mid way through, for whatever reason, has been so so happy with their decision, so if it does come to that, don't fear it, it can be fabulous. My older one left mid y10 and is living her best life, always out with her mates and enjoying freedom 🤣

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I can imagine how worried you must be wondering if and when to step in and what to do for the best.

I guess, we’ve all had experiences of trying new things or moving to new places which we’ve grown to love over time and that haven’t been a hit straight away. So if your dc seems in a reasonably stable place, it might be worth sticking in there for a little longer.If your dc has longed for this experience for a while then maybe the reality just doesn’t match up to their expectations and therefore it all seems a little flat.

Maybe you could ask your dc to specify exactly how being at vocational school feels different from their previous school. Homesickness  is a very big spectrum which is often difficult to communicate and can sometimes lead to confusion and a blanket of despair. Being able to list the negatives and positives and how they make your dc feel inside might help, especially if they can see that our experiences are changing all the time as we grow and nothing stays the same for very long.

Although the vocational schools all have their issues, they do have very different atmospheres/ vibes. So maybe this one is just not quite the right fit. 

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Thank you all. To try and answer some points 

 

@MamaFrostythank you. I agree it’s ok to walk away if it’s not right. They aren’t there yet! I’ve given them the option plenty of times but they’re still determined to see it through at least until Christmas while claiming they don’t think it’s for them 🙄

 

@WhatsThePointehopefully we won’t prolong it if it really isn’t working and we can be brave and say it isn’t right. But I’m not sure that we’re there yet. They insist on trying but yet it’s the struggling with the thought of them trying and still being sad. And finding ways to help them feel happier is really hard going at the moment. 
 

@glowlight I did write in the first half term but they haven’t asked why I’ve stopped 😂. So I don’t think it’s missed. I’ll maybe have to start up again this week though. 
 

They have restricted themselves to messaging me only with the odd short phone call as that’s easier to cope with. We exchange a few in a morning and a few throughout the evening, but the messages themselves are miserable at the moment. 
 

The point about stop trying to see the positives struck with me. Perhaps I’m asking for something that isn’t possible at the moment. I’m going to focus on not doing that and try keep the chat to more mundane stuff. I ask how their day was and immediately regret it…. It’s that ‘don’t ask a question you don’t want an answer to’. 
 

@Ruby FooI also like the idea of listing the positives and the negatives and trying to explain how they make them feel! I’ll try that. 
 

 A few things for me to try and a really important one is to try rise above how they are feeling and take my mind own emotion out of it. I’m very quick to react and I have to bite my tongue to not say ‘right that’s it I’m pulling you out!’ 
 

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I feel for you OP. We've been dealing with fallout from homesickness in our house too,but  regarding my non dancing son who's just started University. And he's (technically!) an adult, so how much worse must it be for a year 7? I don't think there's an easy answer unfortunately. Figuring out what's something they can work through and what's something that can't-or shouldn't be - got over is tough, as is deciding what they need to decide for themselves and when you as a parent need to intervene. I would agree with the advice for you to contact the school pastoral team. Your DC won't be the first child to have been through this and certainly won't be the last. In fact I'd pretty much guarantee that they aren't the only one having the same experience right now. The school should be able to offer some practical ideas and emotional support. And if they can't...well maybe that in itself would be something that helps you decide on a course of action.

It's absolutely normal for children and young people away from home for the first time to feel sad and miss their old lives. I guess we'd be a bit worried if they didn't miss home at least a bit wouldn't we? But the intensity and duration of that upset will vary and that's what I think is important. We've discussed this many times on here, but the chances of a long term successful classical career are tiny, even for those who achieve places at the top schools in year 7, so it is absolutely crucial that the "journey" is enjoyable. School needs to be a valuable experience in its own right, not something that has to be endured as a means to an end. It is very hard when so much has been invested to get DC's to this stage, and they are probably hearing regularly how lucky they are, how many other DC's would kill for the same opportunities etc but it isn't right for everyone and there is absolutely no shame in acknowledging that if it's ultimately what you and your DC decide. 

Keep lines of communication open, with school and with your DC especially, weigh everything up, but in the end, don't be afraid to go with your gut. Maybe wait until the temporary problem you allude to is fixed, but remember that decisions made at this stage are not binding, and certainly not final. Your DC as a person, not just a dancer, is the most important thing and there are many roads to Rome. And indeed destinations other than Rome which are just as good, if not better.

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On 08/11/2022 at 07:37, Howdoyouknowwhentoquit said:

Good morning

 

I’ve been searching through the boards for help with homesickness and found some really useful threads but some of the experiences feel slightly different to ours and I’m not sure where to go from here. 
 

My child (MC) has started vocational school this year (year 7) and is really struggling with homesickness. The first 3 weeks we nearly threw in the towel but MC although feeling very unhappy wanted to carry on trying. So we persevered with a compromise of coming home each weekend to begin with. We’re now into the second half of the term and although things are improving very very slightly (from my point of view as MC has control of their emotions more now and isn’t constantly sobbing and begging to come home) they are nowhere near settled yet. 
 

We are now not picking them up for the first weekend (wish we’d done this last term as it feels as though they are starting from the beginning) as a bit of a make or break because weekly boarding is not feasible due to the distance and because it resets the clock every weekend with the homesickness. 
 

I appreciate all of this probably seems normal and what others have experienced however the bits we’re struggling with is that they cannot find any positives about their days at all. They like the school but don’t seem to love it. Currently they aren’t looking forward to the dancing or academics and certainly not the boarding so cannot see how to stay positive about it all. 
 

They are disappointed in themselves because this has been a dream for a few years and they worked really hard to get to this point and don’t want to give it up and regret it but just want to feel happy.

 

I don’t know if the not looking forward to it is normal because the homesickness is so overwhelming or if it’s an indicator that it’s just not right for them? 
 

Another kicker is that their roommates seem settled and happy and they can’t help but compare themselves. 
 

We’re taking it a term at a time and I’m proud of MC that they continue to be brave and persevere but I genuinely don’t know what to do next to help them.
 

Any help or experience of whether this is normal would be greatly appreciated. 

I’m so sorry to hear about your experiences. Have you spoken to staff at the school just to ascertain if there is an issue either in the classroom/studio or even the meals served & friendship groups etc, homesickness symptoms can manifest itself to be a reaction to other factors. The biggest cause for many is lack of sleep. It’s like a slow burn they just don’t recognise how tired they are. Once those factors can be ironed out it’s a way forward 
My DD was older when she went away but struggled with what she thought was homesickness in the January term after being home for the holidays.  The school recognises that Sept then Jan of the first year are always the trigger points for potential homesickness. 

 

Instead of bringing her home again for the weekend (she would have had to fly back as we don’t live on the mainland) I travelled up to the school and checked into a hotel nearby for the night. She stayed with me. We visited some places in the area. Walked/talked/slept and ate out. Just Sat mid morning returning back later on Sunday evening. She still says now it was just what she needed. A good nights sleep just recharged her battery. It was like flicking on a light switch. Came home a few weeks later for 1/2 term full of life. (I also supplied her with her favourite homemade cake). 
 

Tired hungry children are never a good mix.

 

The other option to consider if at all available….. 
If you have contacts with another parent in their yr group maybe they might be in a position to pop in one weekend and take their child and yours out for the day if school allows it. Might just be enough to help things ticking over until the end of term. 
 

Rest assured if that is such a thing, Homesickness is perfectly normal at any age when being away from our home.  

 

Best wishes. It’s just a small paragraph in chapter for the book of our life. 
 

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Sorry you are going through this. 
I know first hand how hard and exhausting it is. I could’ve written your post. 
 

We did year 7 and left at the end of that year. We finally made the decision to leave during Easter break following months of what you describe. The Summer term with them knowing they were coming home afterwards was the happiest one. 
 

We were too far to do every weekend visiting and that seemed to be what worked for others - breaking up the weeks. 
 

In hindsight, I would have pushed harder for more pastoral support.

Boredom was a real problem too.  Lots of free time after classes and weekends and not much to fill it with which really exacerbated things.
 

Fast forward to now and I can say we have no regrets about leaving. 

The joy is back!! 


Feel free to message. 

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So sorry to hear that. It's tough, and can strike at any time and any age for very disparate reasons. One of the things pastoral support proposed with my DD (in upper school) was to make a small box and fill with stuff that made her happy. DD started doing it with them, but did not finish it as she was feeling a lot better for just going through the process of talking about it and someone actually taking the time to listen and help. 

 

Worth noting that it is something that gets better with time, but doesn't necessarily go away completely. Residential schools must support with this, but some just pay lip service to it. If they don't actively support with evidential strategies, take your child out. It's not worth the money and the trouble at that age, and full-time students are actually on a very similar technical level to part-timers by year 11, because they also have to concentrate on GCSE's.

 

Very happy to correspond by DM's. 

Edited by richieN
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Hi

 

Sorry for the delay in coming back. It’s been a bit hectic. I really appreciate all your kind words and support. And some of the advice has helped. 
 

School have been great, really supportive so I have no concerns there. It’s been a tough couple of weeks as although I think we might be getting somewhere with the homesickness. The short term issue that we have with dancing is now looking to be a this half term issue so that is really not helping at all. Despite this thought. I have reinforced that they have a choice and if it’s not working they can say enough is enough but they’re not ready to throw in the towel yet. 
 

What this does mean though is that we may not end the term on a positive so it will make the decision for them to go back after Christmas harder, and if they do go back I know it’s going to be like starting all over again. 
 

It’s a complete rollercoaster but I am learning to let them vent and not to rise to it emotionally and just be there for support. Someone wrote on another thread about their child being a dementor and sucking the happiness out of them with the contact and this as absolutes hit the nail on the head 😂. MC is trying so hard though and I can really see that now. 
 

Hopefully I’ll be able to update one way or another soon, and if we do get through this hopefully I’ll be able to pass on some words of wisdom to others in the future. Right now I’m just winging it each day! 

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Emotional readiness is a huge issue, and not every child grows the same.

Our first seperation was at age 14, and DD went away to Paris. being the only international student she suffered so much that we ended the process in 4 months. But the side effects were a lot, she took consultation for a year. This was the wisest thing we did as parents. Not forcing her to a stage where things would not be solved and let her take support.

At age 16 she felt ready and moved away once again to a school that was more up to her expectations. Thankfully it worked this time.

Depression signs should not be missed. A homesickness is possible for a few months but if it rules her emotions then this is not OK.

And even though she continues, it is possible to seek for proffessional help sometimes, an online support would clarify things better. Cause being there by her/his side as a parent is not enough sometimes.

Best wishes...

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I can only tell you that I was desperately homesick and unhappy when I was dancing in a ballet company in Germany.  It was my first time away from home for more than a few weeks and although I really loved the dancing part, I felt so alone.  I remember crying like mad at the thought of going back after the summer break and my brother in law asking me very sensibly why on earth I was going back? Of course my dramtic reply was "Because I have to dance!"  I was 19 then and not a kid, but I was used to having the support of  family and friends and in those days there was no instant communication.  However, when I went back for the new season there were several new dancers and we hit it off immediately.  I even made a lifelong friend amongst them.  Once I had some support, everything changed and I had a great time there and I suppose grew up.  So I think my question to you is has your child made friends at the school that can offer some support and comradeship?   Vocational school can be very competitive and it might be hard to develop a feeling of belonging.  On the other hand it might just be too soon for them.   You can go to Vocational school at 16 and still become a dancer!

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