Homesickness is one of the topics most campers and parents fret over when it comes to summer camp. Campers wonder if they can survive away from their parents and electronics. Parents wonder if their camper is missing them and taking care of themselves. While there is no way to predict it, research shows about 95% of campers get some varying amount of homesickness, which means it’s not really about who will get homesick, but when. In order to ensure your camper has the time of their life this summer, here are some strategies to prevent or lessen homesickness.
Have confidence and faith in your child
Children are resilient! They can handle more than we think they can. Children are also very good at reading people’s emotions, especially their family members! As a parent of a camper, it is important that you exude confidence and faith in your child’s ability to be away from the family and beat homesickness when it happens.
Talk with your child about the possibility of homesickness
It’s a little counterintuitive, but it is better to talk about homesickness directly than to dance around the subject and pretend like it doesn’t exist. While you don’t want to dwell on it, talking about homesickness with you camper will normalize it and shows them that they aren’t the only one that has ever felt that way and that it is survivable. Telling your child about a time you were homesick will show that even Mom and Dad have felt it before!
Arrange for your child to practice being away
The best “cure” for homesickness is to practice and know that you can handle it. Whether it’s a few sleepovers at friends’ houses or a weekend with relatives, kids need practice being apart from the family, experiencing unfamiliar emotions, and learning they can survive! Parents can tell a child over and over that they can do it, but nothing is as effective as a child determining for themselves that they are ready.
Teach your child about different periods of time
Lengths of time can be difficult for adults to grasp, so imagine how abstract it is for children! Working with your child to get them used to time periods will help to put camp into perspective. Using a calendar or terms they are used to, like Spring Break or Winter Break, will help kids visualize how long camp will be.
Involve your child in planning for camp
Campers will feel more in control if they are involved in the whole process – from getting to know the camp to shopping and packing. After looking through the website, brochure, and DVD, have your camper write a list of questions they are wondering about and contact camp with any you don’t know the answer to. Allowing your camper to help shop and pack may slow down the process, but it will give them confidence at camp to know what they have and where it is located.
Don’t make a pick up deal
One of the worst things for homesickness is to make a deal about picking a camper up early! Letting your camper handle homesickness will feel like it’s going against all of your parental instincts, but it is so important that they work through the emotions and stick it out. Making a deal will show your camper that you don’t have faith in their ability to overcome homesickness and that you think the only solution is to rescue them. Instead, reassure your child that while they might be missing home, they can handle the feelings. Remind them that they are prepared for the best summer of their life!
While homesickness might still be worrying you or your camper, please know that our counselor staff is trained on handling homesickness and our leadership team and Full Time Staff members are available to help as well. As always, please contact Jordan (firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-966-6600) with any questions you have or if you need any help in preparing for camp. We are excited to see you soon!
Much of the above information on homesickness was found in Homesick and Happy, written by Michael Thompson, PhD. Dr. Thompson is a consultant, author, and psychologist specializing in children and families. You can buy Homesick and Happy online at the Camp Lonehollow Outfitters.