How do you handle homesickness at summer camp?

Summer camp is a unique respite from the pressures of everyday life.

Attending Camp is an incredible opportunity for your child to learn new skills, learn more about our amazing God, and develop friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.  Camp is a great place to unlock your child’s potential, develop his/her self-esteem and enhance his/her social skills while having the time of his/her life. Parents should feel great about providing their child with this incredible opportunity, and the “letting go” will be good for both parent and child. It will help develop a healthy independence. For the first-time camper, how he/she is prepared will influence the overall experience, and parents are often the key to a rewarding and successful camping experience.

Parents need to be supportive and sensitive.

Any new experience, especially in a new environment, causes nervousness; having a positive outlook and being encouraging become crucial to a successful camp experience. This includes parents as well as campers! Parents can ease the pain of homesickness for themselves and their children by making sure to adequately prepare their children for camp.   Make sure that you talk to your child about camp, the expectations, the activities, the environment, and, of course, the fun they will have. A prepared and encouraged child will feel less apprehensive about the impending camp term. If the camper has not been away from home for a period of time, encourage overnight stays with friends and relatives prior to going to camp. This will help your child adjust to being away from home and adapting to new surroundings.

What you do when you get a homesick letter can make or break the camp experience.

Homesickness is actually the norm and not the exception. Most campers experience homesickness at least one day of camp. Homesickness is a part of growing up and breaking away. Many people learn to cope with homesickness at summer camp, and camp is a good place to deal with the feeling of homesickness. Camp is a place for children to learn self-confidence. Camp is a place where children learn about responsibility. Camp is a place to have fun with new friends. Camp is a safe, caring environment where nurturing adults are trained to support children through this sometimes difficult growth process. Homesickness is normal and will go away!

If you should receive a homesick letter from your camper, don’t panic!

If you can, wait for the next letter to see if the content has become more optimistic. Often the first couple of days are a big adjustment and it may take some time for your camper to become more involved in the program, cabin, and activities and to make some friends. Be sympathetic, but positive
and encouraging in your replies. Don’t dwell on how much you miss your child, how lonely things are without him/her or give too much information about home which may cause anxiety. Ask lots of questions about camp, their activities, new friends, and be encouraging. In this day of instant access, e-mail is wonderful for quick messages. Parents need to be careful, though, not to send so many instant “messages” that they interfere with their child’s adjustment to camp life. If the homesick letters continue, be prepared to work with camp staff to help your child work through the situation. Call camp and express your concerns. Let the staff investigate the situation and get back with you. Trust your camper and the camp staff. Your child’s camp counselors play an important role in the adjustment process and are probably the most instrumental persons in dealing with your camper. They are prepared. Let them do the job you have entrusted them to do.