It’s not uncommon for first-time campers (and even second-and third-timers) to experience homesickness.
Homesickness is good. It means you have a home and parents that love you.
Such feelings are a normal part of the camp experience, but not addressing them can significantly affect important life-lessons and social skills.
Preparing a child for camp will help them later when leaving for college and gaining independence as they mature. Consider these ideas:
1. Let them help choose a camp. By involving them in the selection process, they’ll be more confident and excited to be there. It gives them a sense of control.
2. Discuss what homesickness is. Tell your child how they might feel when not staying at home and let them know that it’s OK to have these feelings and encourage them to be open with their counselors.
3. Practice sleeping away. A weekend with a friend or family member is a great way to introduce being away from home. Limit communication to give an idea of how it will be while they’re at camp.
4. Encourage new friends. Many children will be scared of not knowing anyone at camp. Some camps match a new camper with a returning one to be a buddy before and during camp.
5. Write letters. Have a letter waiting for them when they get to camp. It will be a great surprise. Write frequently, but never remind them of what they are missing at home. Be encouraging and let them know how proud you are of them for attending camp. Most importantly, remind them to enjoy the summer and have fun.
All camps have staff trained to help children cope with homesickness and some children forget all about it within a few days. Typically, counselors will encourage campers to share reminders of home with each other. Talk to your camp’s director to find out how they specifically handle homesickness and include your child in that conversation, too.
Do not express your own concern or anxiety about your child leaving for the summer. If they see your strength and confidence about how much fun they’ll have at camp, it will put them at ease.
In Homesick and Happy, author Michael Thompson provides an insightful and compelling look at the magic of summer camp and explains why it is so important for children to be away from home – if only for a little while.
Camp can be one of the best times of a child’s life — a magical time!
Reach Helene Abrams, an advisor with Tips on Trips and Camps, a free summer camp and trip advisory service that helps parents of children ages 7-18 find enriching summer overnight experiences, at 214-484-8141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.