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Homesickness: how long before it is not so intense?

Guest evacaroline

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Guest evacaroline

Hi - My daughter (recently 18) is far away from home in a full-time training program that began in September. She has been away at summer programs in the past but this is her first time living away from home. We won't see her until the Christmas break. She loves the ballet classes (that's why she's there). About half the instructional time involves other styles of dance and other performance-related skills.


She chose this program because it offered her the best opportunity to realize her dreams. She is struggling with homesickness and wondering if she can make it through three years so far from home. At the same time, she knows that to be a dancer she may have to be willing to work far from home.


My question: do others have observations or experiences they can share about how long it takes to get over being homesick? I realize the answers will vary with the individual concerned, and the circumstances. Still, I am interested in what you can share. I have looked around on this thread and a lot of the discussion is about younger children so while all responses are welcome I am particularly interested in hearing about experiences (observed or lived) of those in the 17-20 age group.


Thanks in advance.

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, evacaroline!!!


First off, let me just say that you are not alone here. There are plenty of parents who can share situations similar to what you are experiencing. But I'll leave that up to them!


What I can tell you is that it will lessen as more time goes by and she begins to develop a routine and new friends. :D It will get better soon!!!!

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Clara is right about friendship helping lessen the homesickness to some extent. We have found that when our DD is happy and busy, she misses home less and when things socially are more challenging or when she is sick or injured, it kicks back in more fiercely. That said, my DD is an adult now, loves her dance family as much as her biological one, is thrilled with her career and yet, she's still homesick sometimes. She and her younger brother are very bonded, she and her Dad share a great deal of common interests and art activities, and she still needs a mom hug now and then! It is just a fact of life for her and we all accept that. And frankly, we miss HER that much too!


What helps for us is retaining that close family bond. We send care packages, often with "inside jokes" regularly. We all text and send phone photos of our day or something hilarious we see every day. We email each other daily. We keep each other in touch with our schedules so at a certain point in our day, she knows what we do at say, ten a.m., and we know which rehearsal she is in. We talk by phone several times a week.


She moved away quite young, at barely 17, and I think we all feel that staying in good touch has made that a happy and positive experience for all of us. Yes, some kids/parents do fine with the absence and never seem to feel that homesickness, but we came to terms with the fact that this is not us, and we have to do what works for our family.


We are so blessed now that she lives just four hours from us. Seeing her monthly is super fantastic! She comes home or we go south for a visit, and it means so much to all of us. And even though her dance family are mostly older than her, it has delighted me that they all want "mom hugs", cupcakes from "home" and a genuine compliment from a "parent" just as much as she does. We are honored to be accepted into the group, to watch class and to be a happy audience at performances. So know that you and your DD are not alone. As she learns more about her new friends she will find that some of them feel just like she does and will find support among them for the days she feels a little sad.

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I do think the homesickness levels off some after a few months. The first few months are the hardest for sure. It's still early, she left in September and it sounds like has been gone about 30 days. She's right in the thick the time where she realizes she's not a hair's breath from home.


Dance1 has given some good suggestions for keeping in touch and keeping her keyed in to the family. As long as those things won't make her more homesick, add a few of her suggestions. (you'll know her better than us how she'll take more contact...for some that may make it worse) Do support her but also give her time. If you don't have Skype yet, get Skype or something similar so you can have video time even if you're just a few hours away. It usually gets better after a first performance since this is a BIG bonding time for the dancers in any program.


Since you mentioned she feels "she may not make it through 3 years so far away". Make a pact that she should give it some time but that an option is always a program closer with just a word from her at a predisposed time in the future. Sometimes, just the knowledge that you have that as an option starts the process of relaxing and enjoying things more.

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Both Dance1 and Momof3 have given you great advice.


When my brother went to camp, he sent a short post card home that read, "I'm sick, I think." My mom went into a tailspin. Her son was sick and the camp never told her. Furious, she got in the car and drove to get him. The camp had not called because he was homesick. They didn't think it warranted a call home. My mom over-reacted but the camp failed to acknowledge how horrible it can make someone feel too.


Homesickness was a reality for our dd as well. She went away at 15, having only been to a 3 week SI as her "away from home" experience. She tried to hide the extent of the homesickness because she thought we would bring her home. ( I guess the story about her uncle gave her that idea.) I wasn't even aware of the extent until we went to see her in December and her teachers told us! DD was in another country so there was some culture shock involved too. If your dd is in another country or even another region of the country, culture shock is probably a part of the homesickness. The stress of being in a more intense program where everyone was EXPECTED to dance professionally also played a role, especially around appraisal time. Other times that were hard were Thanksgiving because it isn't celebrated in the country where she was located, and birthdays. Think about any triggers that might be specific for your dd and plan ahead but even the best plans won't mitigate all the homesickness. So be prepared to be strong and support her by phone, skype, e-mail and include her in your day as much as possible. Be aware that there is a huge loss of privacy and encourage your dd to find a quiet place/time to share her most vulnerable thoughts and emotions with you. We did spend lots of money to fly dd home during her half-term and term breaks her first year and knowing that a visit home was in the fairly near future also helped. By her second year the visits home were less frequent or necessary and by her third, she not only preferred to stay at school but needed to because of performance responsibilities with the company (which she loved!)


In general, DD was very busy during the week with classes, to the point of exhaustion at times, but Saturday afternoon through Sunday night was tough at first. Her friends and classmates would frequently go home for the weekend and it got very quiet around the dorm. DD would fill the time with her academic studies but even in one of the most wonderful cities in the world, weekends felt lonely her first year. Skype is a big help! DD missed fall football and we would actually bring her into the family room via skype to watch football with the family. I would also skype with her in the late afternoon while I was getting dinner ready so she was back in the kitchen like old times. We sent cards and care packages too. We sent e-cards and inspirational sayings every morning during her darkest days. She had quite a stash of American food and lots of stuffed animals! We have now discovered REBTEL which is a VOIP (I think) way to make phone calls overseas that seems to save us money and the quality is good. I pay for an account for her and for her brother so they can talk whenever they want. They are very close and it's helped that they can "reach out" whenever they want.


As the first year went on, dd made friends with the local kids and they invited her home with them. One family "adopted" her and she even spent some weekends with the grandmother! Just know that it does get better and make sure to acknowledge the reality of the homesickness and that it will get better. Homesickness is not as likely to bother her when she's busy so if it's possible for her to get out on the weekends, I would recommend helping her plan some adventures! Local history or art museums, ballets, concerts and even movies with another student who is far from home will help fill the time. By dd's second year, homesickness abated and she loved exploring the parks, museums and just walking the city; by her third year, she calls the city her other home. At 18, she's moved to a new country for her first job and is homesick for two places now! She has had some moments where she is lonely but she calls home and admits it, rather than trying to hide those feelings and we just talk and skype. I show her the dogs and the house and we talk for a good long time. She also skypes with her friends from her graduating class and they share their experiences. That helps a lot! Because of her experience with homesickness, she knows it will end and she knows that getting out and "exploring" is the best way to fill the time until she has that network of dependable friends.


Hang in there; it will get better. It's hard to have kids in school away from home; there are many sleepless nights but the independence and maturity that they are gaining is worth it!

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Guest evacaroline

Thanks. I guess I knew when I posted the question last night that there really isn't an answer to the "how long" question. Homesickness will subside but never go away and, in each case, it's a question of weighing those feelings against the drive to succeed as a dancer and what it takes to get there. Inevitably, there will be times when the uncertainty of ever attaining the goal makes her question whether what she's doing is worth it. The more successful she feels at school, the more the balance will tend towards confirming the value of her choice. I think she has been feeling a little discouraged in that regard, at least on some days. She has worked very hard to get where she is (she's a late starter) and I often remind her to look back and think of how far she has come. I also tell her that, since there are no guaranteed outcomes, she needs to be willing to make this journey for its own sake.


She has friends at school and one, in particular, with whom she seems to be developing a very nice bond. We Skype or email back and forth daily. We also have a blog set up that all of us (mum, dad, DD, and brother) post photos and messages on. She posts her weekly timetable for us. I send her parcels or letters approximately twice a week. Still - as you all know, it's not the same.


She would love to be in a program closer to home but it's not the case that such a program, at least not a comparable one, is "always an option". There are a limited number of dance programs close to home (we are not in the US) and not all of them offer the type of training she wants. When she left for this program she knew that she would spend at least one full year there. She's not questioning that commitment, just wondering whether we should begin exploring options for next year. The reason she is so far away is that the result of our research and her auditions made this school her best choice. She is already planning to audition for at least one closer-to-home program for next year. She didn't get into it last year but - who knows? It's a long shot but that's true of just about everything she's done so far.


I think when I posted last night I was feeling concerned that it's just too early to be thinking about options for next year. But perhaps this is not the case. In the past, my daughter has made it through difficult situations by keeping an eye on the future. She has done this while continuing to work hard and get the most our of the situation she was in.


I should add that while I joined the forum almost two years ago, last night was my first post. I really should have posted messages of thanks many times since joining. The information on this forum has been extremely helpful to me.

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Great advice has already been given so I can only add one thing...the initial few days and weeks of a program are intense and fun and exciting. But eventually the excitement wears off and the drudgery and "reality" sets in. This is a normal part of the peaks and valley of any experience. It should pick up out of the valley before long, so don't get too worried too soon. You can monitor from the sidelines, but if she knows that you are worried then it may enhance her homesickness as well.


I have a son and his experiences being away from home are very different than the girls we know that dance. He seldom gets down or misses home, though we do notice that he isn't quite himself when changes in weather happen, especially when summer starts shifting into fall and there isn't as much sun and also in the middle of winter when the social scene isn't quite as much fun as summer. THose are the times we make sure we send care packages.

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I also agree with d1s1, momof3 and swanchat. Give it a few months and by Thanksgiving, she should be feeling better. Her friends at her ballet school do become her "new" family and that lessens the sting of missing her biological family. We and our dancer survived her first year (at 15) with Skype, phone calls, care packages and a visit at Christmas time. She did make friends and visited with their families on weekends as well. It was a huge year in terms of personal growth and has made her the independent young lady we know today. One thing that I think that helped her was remaining very positive in our communications with her. She needed to feel the support from home and the excitement we felt about her "new adventure" (as we always called it).

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You need a big old cyberhug! :flowers: I know how hard it is to have your dd away from home, working hard, homesick and now thinking she needs to re-evaluate her choice of school. I have learned, especially in the ballet world, to take one year at a time and to always have contingency planning underway. There is a good deal of uncertainty in the lives and careers of ballet dancers; it sounds like your daughter is thinking ahead and that's a good thing. I would discourage doing anything in haste or based only on her homesickness. We also found that the homesickness was the worst when she was feeling challenged in her abilities. That challenge promoted growth and growth promoted self-confidence and homesickness took a back burner. Hopefully, your dd is in one of those uncomfortable growth stages! I know that every single one of dd's classmates wondered what it would be like to be a "normal kid" every now and then, especially when they were being pushed to new levels with higher expectations.

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Ah, yes. This would also be about the time where kids have initially settled in, and are beginning to evaluate themselves against the new parameters. If she trusts the training, and if the training is making sense to her body and mind, then reassure her that this is just a normal part of ballet life, and that she should push on through, taking all of this in as the best opportunity to grow.


Sometimes, kids do get too wrapped up in comparing themselves to others, and in trying to please the teachers. You know her best and if you think that has anything to do with it then you can reassure her to only compare herself to her own yardstick, and to continue to find her gifts. It can also be a time of reflection- why does she dance? Ultimately, she must dance to please herself, not others. Perhaps she may need a gentle reminder to focus on the fact that she must dance like she must breathe!


It can really help kids to focus intensely on the task at hand, and on their burning desire to dance. Then the other stuff can fall into place.

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At the same time, there is no danger (I think) in making plan B, C, D or even E. As long as being "realistic" doesn't make her doubt herself and become pessimistic. I wonder if those kids who find themselves thinking about alternate plans feel that they are not passionate enough and start to think badly about themselves and doubt their "passion" when they are just being thoughtful. I say this knowing that my own DS has NO plans outside of dancing, which, being a thoughtful planner, find frustrating!

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in each case, it's a question of weighing those feelings against the drive to succeed as a dancer and what it takes to get there. Inevitably, there will be times when the uncertainty of ever attaining the goal makes her question whether what she's doing is worth it.


Ironically, I, the parent, am the one who has the feelings you describe above. I'm not trying to take this post off track, but your words quoted above resonated with me this evening. In my case DD is much younger than yours - only 14. I'm the one who knows the impossible odds (probably more than DD at this stage) and wonder daily how I could be so insane as to allow my very young DD to go so very far from home to chase such an impossible dream. Very different from simply taking classes from the comfort of one's own home and seeing where that takes you. Yet she is loving it (so far- early days yet) and it is supplying something that she felt was missing for a while now. And I also know that in this particular case she will still be in a very good place should dance no longer remain an option for her. I also know that not allowing her to have this opportunity might haunt us with questions in the future. But that's mainly my head speaking - the heart takes a while longer to adjust! :thumbsup:


Good wishes to you, Evacaroline, and to your daughter. I hope both your hearts adjust quickly too!

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You also need a cyber hug! :thumbsup: Take a deep breath and be reassured by the fact that your dd is loving where she is right now. It sounds like she is in a program which allows her to have a backup plan in case dance no longer figures into her future. She is young and her interests could change or her desire to dance could simply change to an interest, not a need and having a solid backup plan allows us parents to sleep at night. When our dd was offered a scholarship to train at a very good school, very far away, she had just turned 15. We also knew that if we said no, we would have been limiting her and it seemed wrong to do so.


I used to worry that when she was grown up, she would ask me how I could have allowed her to do this and miss all of the "normal" rights of passage for teens in the US. You know, things like prom and homecoming and football games. DD had gone to our local high school for her freshman year (it is the school that the writer used for "Grease"); she loved it there but insisted that she needed better ballet training. So, off she went. She graduated last year and is dancing far away from home, happy and traveling all over the world. She told me that she had an "epiphany" while sitting on a roof overlooking the ocean while waiting for a ferry. She said she realized how lucky she had been to train at a world class program in a wonderful city so she can work doing what she loves and how lucky she is to have a family that supports her for doing it and then she thanked us! Her best friend e-mailed her later that week with an "epiphany" of her own. She had been watching "Glee" -the prom program and wrote to my dd that they used to say they missed having a prom but after watching how awkward and forced the fun was and how adults had to chaperone how they danced, she realized how lucky they were to have been able to be trusted by their own parents to make smart decisions and have fun that was natural even if it wasn't in a prom dress.


Take one year at a time and take time to listen to what your dd is really saying. Is the need to do this still there? Is she getting the training she needs? And together, assess how the back up plan is holding up.

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My fifteen year-old DD is also living about 6 hours away from home at a pre-pro program. What helps us is calling and texting. She calls me while she is stretching before classes start in the morning or at lunchtime. She calls or texts when classes are over; often she is frustrated or excited about what has happened that day and wants to share. Then she calls/texts right before bed. I actually feel every bit as close to her as when we were commuting in the car twenty hours per week. I actually thought it was going to be harder, but because of the cell phone it is working out.

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My DD is the very definition of a home-body. She attended a residential program beginning at age 14, and has been away from home 5 of the past 6 years/seasons. I agree with much of what has been said above, and add a mish-mash of thoughts:


~ Try to have a regular schedule for phone calls. We still to this day talk at the same times every day. There is something about that predictability that I think keeps her connected with home.


~ I agree with what has been said about her training. If the training feels right to her, great, but if it does not feed her needs, you should re-evaluate schools. This will make all the difference in the world later on.


~ Don't underestimate how she will feel after a little more time has passed, especially if she is comfortable with her training. My DD's second year of residency was COMPLETELY different than her first. Her second season with her current company is completely different than her first. While everyone was nice and friendly and lovely last season, this season they are like family. :(


~ This may sound counter-intuitive, but don't send care packages too frequently. There is something almost "needy" about care packages. I think my daughter prefers her independence (plus the occasional Starbucks or iTunes gift card I might slip into her forwarded mail now and then :thumbsup: ).


~ Skype has been great for family-viewing of our favorite football games (DD is in a different region of the country, so doesn't get our local team's games), but I find that Skyping just for the sake of it makes it harder for her (and for me!). Seeing the family and/or family pet can be good and bad - it might be nice to catch that glimpse once in a while, but it also makes her long for home if we are just chatting about nothing in particular.


(((Cyber hugs to you, evacaroline))). Know that it will get easier. Today is my DD's 20th birthday, and I am reminded that all of her experiences away from home have matured her beyond her years. Looking back, we wouldn't change a thing.

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