Summer camp is one of the most memorable experiences of a child’s life. Part of that experience will inevitably be facing homesickness. No matter how independent and experienced a camper your child is, everyone has a bad day and misses home. Some kids will lament being away much more than others.
As parents what can we do to help ease these tough days:
- Discuss homesickness with your child before they go to camp. Don’t freak them out about it, but mention that everyone has days they miss home and that is normal. Share a story from your childhood and how you handled the situation.
- Help your child plan strategies for when they are homesick: Writing a letter home (send stationary and pre-stamped envelopes) or wearing one of their parents t-shirts can be comforting. They may not feel like participating in activities, but remind them that distraction is one of the best ways to get your mind off of home.
- Tell your child that they can talk privately to their camp counsellor about their feelings. They don’t have to be embarrassed about it. Counsellors can cheer them up or help them out.
- Ensure your child knows that you believe in them and trust they have what it takes to face this typical childhood experience as well as anyone else. If you believe in them, they will believe in themselves. After all – they trust your opinion.
- Calling home often stirs more feelings of loneliness and is usually not recommended. Don’t promise “You can call anytime” or “If your unhappy, we’ll pick you up”.
- Remember that camp staff and counsellors are well trained in helping kids get over their homesickness. They know how to differentiate children who are in regular distress and those who actually need to be picked up. Trust their opinion. It is a rare situation that requires a child to leave camp early.
Camp is a time of tremendous growth for kids. You won’t believe how much they seem to grow up in just a few weeks. Learning to canoe, climb the high ropes, and other such challenges gives them a beaming sense of pride. Learning they can manage away from home on their own and even survive the gloomy days of homesickness proves to them just how capable they are!