Camp for teens and children is an $18 billion industry. That’s right: billion, with a capital B.
That amazing statistic only proves the popularity of the overnight camp adventure. Adults and children alike – more than 14 million per year – are experiencing a taste of the independence and fun that come along with a stay at a perfectly-chosen campground.
The one unavoidable part of camping, besides the amazing memories made and unique skills acquired, is homesickness, which tends to affect 95% of children while away from their families at camp.
Consider that good news: you’re not alone in that feeling! Your children, and you as a parent, are one of many brave individuals willing to take the risk of temporary homesickness in favor of the rewards they’re bound to get through overcoming it.
We’ve compiled a guide to help both your child and you deal with the homesickness!
Overcoming Homesickness at Overnight Camp
It’s not as hard as you’d think.
Once you know your child is ready to stay at an overnight camp, the next part is preparing and planning for anything expected or unexpected on the trip.
- How long will the stay be?
- Where is the camp? Did you choose it together?
- Will you be writing letters and/or making phone calls?
- Has your child ever stayed anywhere overnight?
These are just a few important questions to get you started.
Knowing the exact timeframe of the trip, choosing the location with your child, communicating, and adjusting to nights away are just a few subjects you should broach before sending your kid to camp.
Let’s get specific. Here are a few specific ways to cope with homesickness.
You can prepare in advance by having your child stay at family or trusted friends’ houses overnight. Try to achieve one night without phone calls or issues, then go from there. Getting used to being away from your constant attention is a good first step in making them feel comfortable on their own.
Prepare for their overnight stay as if it were any other night at home. This means send them with a pack that contains their favorite pajamas, books, stationery, games, stuffed animal, or whatever else is used on a daily basis.
The more comfortable your child feels while away, the less likely they’ll reach out to you because of loneliness; they’ll feel a sense of home.
Make a Scrapbook
Keep your child – or the parents – occupied during overnight camp by looking at a scrapbook that you spent time creating in the weeks prior to their stay.
Scrapbooking before or after your child has gone to camp can have therapeutic effects. Beforehand, it’ll give you precious family time. During camp, it’ll give both of you something to look at for happiness.
And afterward, you can make another scrapbook of all the photos they’ve gotten to take while away at camp.
Give Hard Love
Sometimes not giving them what they want is giving them exactly what they need.
Your child may be sad, misbehaving, or generally not responding to the camp environment in the beginning stages. That’s understandable. Give it some time to process and don’t cater to their every need; it’s okay for them to miss you, or you to miss them.
Sending a child to camp fosters independence, leadership, and confidence, at the very least.
Promoting social interaction with older and younger individuals alike sets your child up for being a mature adult with the ability to talk to influential beings.
Ensure an enriching future for your child by allowing them the opportunity to go to camp. One minute they’re experiencing homesickness, and the next they’re encouraging another child to get through the same thing.
There’s no feeling quite like being young and talking about the ways in which they were brave and overcame homesickness. It can be a point of pride and self-assurance which helps tackle other life hurdles.
Inform Your Child
You know what’s better than dropping your kid(s) off at a far-away sleepaway camp that they didn’t have a hand in choosing?
Letting them be a part of every decision-making process before you leave them for their stay.
Involving them throughout the entire choosing of where they stay and for how long will give them comfort through the moments when they’re missing you. And you them (don’t pretend it won’t happen).
Some camps offer specific themes – such as acting, fishing, hunting, volleyball, leadership, or just good ol’-fashioned fun – and one of these may suit your child more than another. The ability to fall back on something they’re good at, knowledgeable in, and enjoy doing helps the homesickness fade.
Communication is Key
Beyond the communication that occurs before your young one starts overnight camp, establishing a means of communicating while they’re gone at least lets them know what to expect.
Don’t leave them waiting by the phone or the mailbox if you have no intention of writing or calling while they’re gone. Of course, we recommend a small number of messages between parents and kids during this endeavor, especially if it spans a couple weeks. There’s nothing wrong with letting them know you miss them, too.
They Won’t Even Know They’re Gone
Our goal by the end (or middle, or beginning) of this trip is that your child will have bit the bullet and embarked on an amazing, unforgettable journey. They’ll enjoy it so much, they’ll have forgotten they’re away from home.
Okay, not quite.
But there’s nothing quite like the comradery that comes with checking your roommates for ticks, tackling obstacle courses, fishing in lakes, making arts n’ crafts, playing in nature.
If you can think of a place where you and/or your child can do all of that and then some, then let us know.