Hey, Camp Parents!
Your child is heading off to summer camp for the first time and you’re concerned about homesickness. Now, remember homesickness is perfectly normal and most kids that attend a sleep away camp for two weeks or more typically experience at least a couple of days of it. However, when homesickness interferes with interacting with others, sleeping, eating and having fun, then it is problematic.
Studies have shown that the secret to preventing homesickness is actually begins at home long before the first day of camp.
Picking a Camp
Many times children that feel forced into going to camp often experience intense homesickness. Parents may find it helpful to include the child into the camp decision making process. Don’t necessarily pack them off to the summer camp where you went to. Sit down, look at the available camps and choose the one that best suits your child’s interest.
Practice Being Away From Home
Kids that haven’t experienced spending the night away before a camp experience are often more prone to feeling homesick. Way before the start of camp, give your child the opportunity to spend a night or two away from home. Perhaps it’s an overnight with a friend or relative. Either way, it provides them with the experience of sleeping somewhere different than their own room.
Involve your child in the packing process and allow them to bring a couple of sentimental reminders of home such as a favorite stuffed animal or pillow. Definitely include a family photograph.
During the school year, read chapter books with a camp theme to get your child excited about the upcoming camp stint.
Okay, so it may seem outdated today, but an old-fashioned letter home is a fabulous way for kids to keep in touch. Send them with pre-addressed and stamped envelopes and note cards.
Don’t Make a Deal
It’s a crucial mistake to tell kids that you will come and get them if they are homesick instead of talking about coping strategies for when they do.
Everyone misses home when they’re away. Let your child know that it is okay to feel homesick and it doesn’t make them a baby. Instead, give him or her ways to manage those feelings like keeping busy with all of the fun activities that camp has to offer. Remind the child beforehand that the counselor is there to help and to talk with someone about his or her lonely feelings instead of keeping them inside. Finally, camp isn’t going to last forever. A calendar can help them mark down the days until it’s time to return home.
In the end, every child is different. Some are ready for a sleep away camp adventure before others. However, as the saying goes; “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Preventative measures before the drive to camp can actually go a long way to lessening a bout of homesickness. As always, thanks for reading, Parents.