Hypothetical situation: Your camper is away at camp. You finally receive the first letter home after days of imagining the best and the worst. You tear open the letter and….your camper is homesick.
First off, take a deep breath because, if you’re like me, even a hypothetical situation can make your chest tighten. Before you jump into the car and race towards the camp gates, take a moment to soak in these important points from Clinical Psychologist and Lonehollow Camp Mom, Dr. Katy Britt, about the nature of the beast we call “Homesickness”…
Feeling homesick is NORMAL! The term “homesickness” makes it sound like something is wrong, flawed, odd, or unusual. Guess what…psychological research indicates 90% of all children will experience homesickness when they are away from their parents. And when they do experience such feelings, one very common way that children react or respond is by processing their feelings through the letters they write home. It actually helps them work through their feelings to express them through writing. But moms and dads, take heart! The reassuring news is that homesickness is a temporary interruption to an otherwise amazing and transformative experience. Translation: By the time you actually read that sad letter, you child is likely long since moved on and is laughing and adventuring with their new camp friends.
Feeling homesick is SYMBOLIC! It suggests a strong bond between parents and children. It means that they love their home and that they love you. And the fact that your child shares their sad and negative feelings with you through a letter means that they trust that you can handle it and know that you will be able to give a positive response that will help them rise to the challenge and overcome whatever fears they are facing.
Overcoming homesickness is a VITAL developmental milestone! As our children grow up and move closer to that point and time where they leave “the nest” and join the ranks of “the real world”, one of the most vitally important skills to master is the ability to learn to self-soothe. Our children need to develop their own internal mechanisms for how to overcome emotional difficulty in the absence of their parents. They need to learn to reach out to other positive social outlets when they need help. And there is no more perfect opportunity to master these life skills than by working through homesickness.
Beating homesickness builds COURAGE for challenges to come! When a child is able to conquer something that seemed impossible, they begin to grow their own internal sense of self-confidence. That priceless gift of belief-in-self that is not dependent upon other people’s encouragement, but rather lives within them and is carried for life. Being able to overcome homesickness at camp is an early accomplishment that helps give children the courage to brave new frontiers throughout the rest of their years.