Going to overnight camp is an exciting adventure that kids will never forget. At camp they make new friends, take part in great activities and learn new skills of independence and self-reliance. Taking on board all those new skills isn’t always easy: being away from a home and family you love and thrust into new routines can lead to natural feelings of homesickness, which goes for adults as well as children. This is completely normal, with as many as ninety-six per cent of campers reporting feeling some feelings of homesickness. For most kids the homesickness is mild, and soon passes, while for others it becomes a real issue which can really limit their enjoyment of camp.
Here are some ideas to help keep homesickness to a minimum so that your child gets the best experience of camp:
Preparation Before Going To Overnight Camp
Most of the work to reduce homesickness happens before your child even gets to camp. It’s all in the preparation.
– Get your child as involved as possible in the preparations for their overnight camp. They should: have some input into which camp they attend and the activities they will do; Research the camp itself, the area around it and the activities they will be doing; be involved in gathering supplied and packing their belongings. All the preparation helps to reduce the “unknown” factor of camp, and gives them ownership of their experience.
– Practice being away from home. If this camp will be your child’s first experience at being away from home, then practice first. Arrange sleepovers with friends and family. To begin with stay in contact with your child with a phone call or text, but work towards no contact, as they won’t be calling you while they are on camp.
– Talk about homesickness. Reassure them that it’s completely normal to miss home and a good sign that they love their family and feel comfortable at home. Get them to come up with a few suggestions of things that they can do if they feel sad and miss home. It’s best if these ideas come from them, but a few suggestions might be: cuddle teddy, talk to a Camp Counselor about how I feel, write you a letter (include paper and stamped and addressed envelopes in packing list), look at a photo of you, go and find something to do. DO NOT tell them that you’ll miss them, that you won’t know what to do without them, or that you’ll come and pick them up if they are unhappy. Tell them that you have every confidence that they will have a great time, and get excited about their adventure with them (don’t talk about what you’ll be doing at all!).
While They Are Away At To Overnight Camps
The staff at Summer Camp are trained, experienced and ready to help all their campers to overcome homesickness, integrate fully into the camp and enjoy themselves. The most important thing that they will do is keep the campers busy. A fun-packed and activity filled day means campers are excited, happy, learning, making friends and have little time left to even think about home, let alone wish that they were there.
Most overnight camps encourage campers to personalize their bunk a little to make them feel comfortable. Encourage them to pack a family photo, a favorite soft toy or other memento that they can come back to if they are missing home. Also pack letter writing stationery so that they have something positive they can do if they are sad.
Write to your child fairly regularly, say once a week (twice maximum). Keep your letters brief and breezy. Talk a little about what you are up to, what Dad said that was really funny, and how the dog just walked into the door – things that will make them giggle or smile. Mostly talk about them, “I wonder what activities you’ll be doing this week. That hike adventure sounded so exciting! Have you seen much wildlife?” This will encourage them to write to you about their activities and remind them about what they are at camp for. If you do receive a tear-stained letter begging to come home, remember that just by putting their feelings in writing and mailing it to you, they are probably now feeling better. Feel free to call the camp office and check that your child is okay, but write back to them with a “Hope you’re feeling better. I know you can do it. What activities have you been up to? Love you loads.”
Kids who’ve overcome homesickness while away at camp often feel very proud of themselves for doing so. They have learnt new self-support strategies and have new confidence and belief in their ability to cope. It’s all been part of the adventure of camp, and despite the odd sad day they cannot wait to go to camp again next year!