Dealing with homesick kids

It would be easy to read this blog, or any of my other social media posts, and assume that moving continents is a breeze and that Canberra is paradise, but of course, real life isn’t like that and it’s only right that I talk about some of the difficulties too.

One of these difficulties presented itself a few nights ago when I crept into mini-CBRbound’s bedroom for a final goodnight. I found him crying and scared, which is very out of character. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “I don’t like this house,” he sobbed.

It’s actually a pretty nice house, albeit a little sparse while our furniture and belongings duck-paddle their way from Scandinavia to Australia. But that wasn’t the point. The conversation wasn’t really about the room, as I was about to find out.

“I miss my friends from my old football team,” he continued, which is understandable – football was a big part of mini-CBRbound’s life in Denmark. He had training twice a week, and played in a tournament nearly every weekend. But the conversation wasn’t really about football, either. It was about change.

A children's play area, with football goals.

The play area opposite our old house, where mini-CBRbound used to practice his football skills.

Mini-CBRbound is a resilient sort. Despite being the younger brother, at eight years-old, he’s the tougher of our two boys; the most confident, too. One of the most revealing stories I can tell you about him is from his first day at school, in Denmark.

My wife took him into the playground where all the other kids were playing, chatting, chasing each other and kicking balls around, but mini-CBRbound just went and sat on a step by himself. “Come on,” said my wife. “Don’t you want to go and join in with all the others?” “Nah,” he replied. “I’ll wait here. They’ll come to me.”

The funny thing is, a few more minutes went by, and they did. They came over to see who this confident little kid was and instead of him asking if he could join their games, they invited him.

My wife and I often speculated whether his confidence stemmed from stability. Our house in Denmark was the house he came home to as a baby. His room there was the only room he’d ever known. The same was true of our local neighbourhood.

A child's bedroom, decorated in blue.

Our youngest son misses his old bedroom.

He joined the local football team at four years-old and, over four years, became a big personality in the team, if not its most skilful player. Last summer, at a four-day international tournament, his little team bonded during the time away and became a gang, with him at the centre of things. They reached the semi-finals too, and chatted about their success for weeks afterwards.

Change has hit him hard. Yes, he loves Canberra. Yes, he is cock-a-hoop to be able to ride ponies here – a lifelong ambition. And, yes, he understands that being here means a lot to the rest of the family too.

But when your tough little bounce-along bruiser of a boy cries himself to sleep because he misses everything he’s ever known, it would take a hard soul not to empathise.

He was better the next morning. He’s slowly making friends and eagerly looking forward to the start of the football season. But he’s been affected by the disruption of our move, and it’s dented his confidence more than a touch.

He’s wise enough to articulate what he’s feeling rather than bottling it all up. That’s where we come in – us, the rest of his family. It’s our job to smooth out the bumps and to hold his hand until he’s back to his normal self. We’ve each had moments of homesickness over the past few weeks, me included, but seeing it in the smallest in our family stings most of all.

11 thoughts on “Dealing with homesick kids

  1. It had to happen really, didn’t it? You can’t make such a move and not have pangs. There are positives to such pangs, I think – they mean great memories and hopefully, certainly even, an ability to make new good memories. It’s tough though to experience and to watch it being experienced. Moving at this time of year when everything is a little out of normal can make it a bit tougher. Hope you have a great Christmas and forge some new summer Christmas traditions for yourselves. If you are going to be in town, it looks like (unless the forecast rain comes in the middle of the day) the weather will be pretty much perfect for a lovely day.

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    • Thanks for the good wishes, Sue. Yes, it’s tough to watch, and a necessary process, but hopefully he’ll bounce back the stronger for it. We’re off to visit friends in Melbourne for Christmas but I think the forecast is just as good down there. Wishing you a wonderful time too. I’m thoroughly enjoying your book reviews too, I’ve a few to catch up on, but that’s on my list for the holidays.

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  2. Oh, that’s tough Mark! So hard to watch the little ones go through these emotions. I hope you all have a fun break through the holidays, discovering more of Canberra and surrounds and then I imagine it will be great to get stuck into a routine with the new school year, soccer season etc. Ours also play futsal in the off-season (through summer) which keeps them busy and helps to maintain their skill levels.
    All the very best to you and the family for a Happy Christmas.

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    • Hey Margot, thanks for that tip — I did a bit of digging and futsal looks perfect. Our boy used to play year-round, so outdoor football in the winter and futsal in the winter would be ideal. It looks like we’ve missed the recruitment window for that too, but come February, we’ll be signing him up for a local team. A Merry Christmas to you too. Best wishes, Mark

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  3. Trish says:

    Oh, that made me a bit teary. Madeleine had some tough days during her exchange year and it was hard to know what to say (she has since told us that she just wanted to be listened to as she vented). It’s heartbreaking, I know.

    Maybe when you all come round for a swim we can wander down to the soccer field at the end of our street and he can show Ella his mad skillz. She’ll happily kick a ball around for hours.

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    • Thanks Trish, that’d be great — a kickabout and a splashabout would be just what the doctor ordered, I think. Have a great Christmas yourself and we all look forward to seeing you later in January. Best wishes, Mark

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  4. The challenges of being a parent. Making decisions that effect the life paths of our children profoundly and then having to deal with the consequences. I feel for you all. And, this little boy, ‘bruiser’ that he is, was able to talk to his daddy and know that the man sitting on his bed was able to hear what he had to say and hold it emotionally for him. That is one huge gift Mark. It’s not our pain that’s often intolerable, its being alone with it and Mini-CBRbound knows he isn’t. My guess is your little one is going to bounce back stronger precisely because he’s being loved and accepted through this painful time…

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    • Oh Anna, you always make me seem a much better human than I feel on the inside, so thank you for that. He’s a smart one, our youngest. He’ll bounce back, but I think seeing the strongest of us in a moment of weakness is somehow more profound than seeing reactions that you expected to see. It’s like seeing a strong man cry at a funeral — its unexpectedness catches us off guard. Hopefully, in a few weeks, he’ll be full of bravado again and flying into tackles to impress his new teammates. But seeing him like this is a reminder that, beneath the swagger, there’s still a little boy who has temporarily lost his bearings. Perhaps we’ll buy him a compass for Christmas, eh? Much love from down under, and a wonderful Christmas to you and yours, Mark

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  5. Birte Andersen says:

    Det er en helt ny verden, et helt nyt liv, som jeres drenge skal vænne sig til og Georges kunne sikkert fornemme eventyret, men ikke helt forstå konsekvensen, af hvad det vil sige at rive sine rødder op. Min erfaring siger, at når først I har fået jeres container og kan indrette jer med jeres egne ting, så vil børnene også føle sig hjemme igen og de vil forstå at hjemme er i Canberra. Og når de først er igang med skolen og får nye venner, relationer, vil de også leve i nuet igen. Når tingene er ukendte dvæler man ved det gamle, men børn er faktisk mere omstillingsparate end voksne, så jeg tror, at lige så snart Georges har fundet sig nogle nye venner, så bliver han glad igen. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a wonderful new Year(Life) 🌲🌲☺️

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    • Tak Birte. Jeg tror George er den mest dansk af vores to drenge, så det var uundgåeligt, at han ville føle det mest hjemve. Vi vil bringe ham tilbage til et besøg en dag snart, men inden da, vil han sandsynligvis være en lille australsk mand. Han er en hård dreng, som du ved, så han bliver gladere som tiden går. Glædelig jul til dig også, og de bedste ønsker fra down under. Mark

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