Homesickness is one of the most common camp-related ailments, up there with bug bites, heat rash, and skinned knees. Unfortunately, it still confounds campers and their parents alike. The American Camp Association says that 10% of kids experience homesickness, but this number is likely much higher because many kids feel homesick but don’t say anything. As a parent, what can you do to keep your child’s homesickness in check?
Preventing homesickness can start at home. If it’s your child’s first time at camp and they haven’t spent much time away from home, send them on a few practice runs. Sleeping at friends’ or relatives’ houses for the weekend can be a good primer.
Are you nervous about your child going away? Try to project a nonchalant attitude to your kids. That way, your anxieties don’t rub off on your camper. Keep reassuring them that they will enjoy camp. Even saying something like “If you don’t like camp, you can always come home” sends a subtle message that camp won’t be fun, so keep that kind of talk to a minimum.
The key to keeping homesickness at bay once a child gets to camp is making sure they stay busy. If they write or call complaining about homesickness, encourage them to take on more activities. Talk to their counselors; they can get your child more involved in the daily life of camp. And although phone calls and email are important, put a limit on this behavior. Too much parent-child contact, especially in the first days of camp, can intensify homesickness. You want your child out having fun, not dwelling on missing you. Letter writing can be a good alternative to phone calls. Ask your kids to use the letters to tell you how much fun they are having.
The great thing about homesickness is that it usually takes care of itself eventually. All you have to do is offer a compassionate ear and support. When you send your child off to summer camp next year, homesickness will be a thing of the past. Plus, doesn’t it make you feel good to be missed?