Homesickness is normal for a child spending the night away from home but it is preventable and treatable. When you discuss overnight camp with your child, here is what we suggest:
If your child mentions possibly getting homesick, Child Psychologist Dr. Chris Thurber would suggest you say “It’s normal to get homesick when you leave home and that shows there are things, people, etc. about home that you really love and that is a good thing.” Dr. Thurber suggests not giving a 'quick out' for your child as a 'pick up deal', ie-“If you get homesick, I will come get you.” This response tells your child immediately that you believe they will become homesick and Dr. Thurber says that one of the predictors of homesickness in a child is their parents expressed anxiety.This ‘pick up deal’ also tells them they have an ‘easy out’ to leave camp and makes it harder on the volunteers who are working to help the child have a fantastic experience.
If your child is going away to camp for the first time this summer or has a tendency to get homesick at camp, even though they have attended camp several times, here are some helpful hints on preparing your child for their week long camp experience:
- Read books about going to overnight camp.
- Encourage your child to have a “backyard sleep out” by pitching a tent in your backyard. This will give your son or daughter the freedom to navigate through their feelings of anxiety, curiosity, and excitement within the safety and security of their own home. Also, consider going to the library and checking out a kid’s book about summer camp and read it together by the light of your flashlight in the tent.
- Talk with other parents from the clinic/hospital to learn from their experiences.
- Encourage your child to care for her/himself- the child should be able to pick out her/his clothes, help pack, learn to keep their bed area clean and neat, set the table, and, if on medication, be responsible to take it at the appropriate time (with the help of the nurses, of course).
- Make sure your child can manage basic personal hygiene such as brushing teeth, changing clothes and bathing. Bed wetting should not preclude a child from attendance at camp; however, the camp staff needs to be aware of the issue so that appropriate arrangements can be made and to ensure the camper’s dignity is preserved.
- Do not schedule a significant family event while your child will be away at camp. No child wants to feel abandoned at camp while mom, dad and the rest of the family are on a fun family vacation or have a special celebration.
- Send letters or emails to your child while they are at camp- campers love to hear from you and the family! Mail from you lets your child know you are thinking about them and love them. Provide your child with addresses, stamped envelopes and stamped postcards. Write about the weather, the garden, parents work, local sports teams. Send the comics, sports pages, a siblings drawings, a cute postcard or an activity book for rest period. If you send an email, please make sure you type their first and last name in the subject line. When you do write your child, please refrain from telling him/her how much you miss them. We find this causes a lot of campers to get very homesick! Please do encourage your child to try all of the activities offered and to try their best to do them well. Also, please do not send your child care packages of candy or snacks. We have plenty of these items at camp that are handed out during scheduled snack time every day. Plus, the wrappers litter our camp grounds and the ants get in the cabins!
- Encourage your child to sleep overnight at several friends’ homes and then spend a weekend with a friend. When your child returns home, discuss your child’s adjustment and feelings.
- When you arrive with your child at camp, make a point of meeting and connecting with the camp staff so your child can see that you are interested in and trust the people that will be caring for them.
- Parents, prepare yourself for the separation! We know moms and dads will miss their child. However, while at camp, the child is hardly missing them! We will take great care of your child. Our goal for your child at camp is to help instill independence, help them learn new things/activities, learn new things about themselves and most importantly, keep them safe in the process!
- PARENTS, THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR CHILD WITH US! BE PROUD OF YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU ARE HELPING INSTILL INDEPENDENCE AND SELF-CONFIDENCE IN YOUR CHILD BY ALLOWING THEM TO BE AT CAMP!