Last summer we had a chance to visit a number of overnight camps and spoke to many children about their experiences at overnight camp. We were really impressed by the way they were proudly conquering their homesickness, especially if they had a bad experience in their first week or month.
Generally, about ninety percent of children do experience some homesick feelings when they are at overnight camp. Homesickness is not a disease; it is a completely normal life experience that every child can easily master given the opportunity. There is nothing wrong for a child who loves her or his parents to feel some longing for dad and/or mom. In fact, even though children often report painful levels of homesickness when away from home, it is ironic that at the end of the day they usually rate themselves as very happy in their activities.
Parents have only one problem; wondering if their children are unhappy or having fun at camp. Well, we know it’s not that easy to judge from a distance, particularly if your child falls into the group of campers who send notes filled with words of homesickness. The most obvious things you’ll find on the note are claims that he/she is not feeling good being at overnight camp and wants to come home to a see a doctor, or they are not having any fun. When you receive such a letter, it would be best to call and speak to your child’s group leader to be reassured that your child is doing great. Even if your child is still homesick, always remember that you picked this overnight camp because you had confidence that they could manage a homesick child.
The recent research suggests that even though almost all children will have some homesick feelings, it’s only two in ten campers who experience real distress. Also, only about 8% to 10% of children often develop severe homesickness that they are not able to overcome. Homesickness experienced by this group of children is generally high throughout the camp sessions and drops off only in the last few days when they’re sure their parents or guardians are about to pick them up.
If you want to help your child overcome homesickness, here are a few recommendations.
· Get your child prepared for overnight camp
You should inform children that experiencing homesickness is normal, and that it means they have a home they love. If they are prepared, they won’t be surprised and neither will you. Also, you should remind them that homesickness is not a reason to leave overnight camp. Sincerely, if you let them go to overnight camp having the feeling that they can leave, then you can be sure they’ll not help themselves manage the tough feelings. When you allow your child to leave early, you simply encourage her to feel like he/she has failed. It’s therefore important that the child stays at camp until the end, even if he/she is homesick.
· Let your child know that there are counselors and friends at the overnight camp to help him or her when needed
A great overnight camp always has counselors and group leaders who manage homesick campers with skill and sensitivity. So, tell her or him to speak to the counselors whenever he/she feels homesick.
· Stay as calm as possible when empathizing with your child’s fears
We know it may sound obvious, but you should not allow yourself to be affected by your child’s fears. For instance, when you’re dropping her/him at the camp and say goodbye, expect tears from your child, but try to control your feelings. Don’t even think of saying words like “we will miss you”, that the house will feel empty, or anything that is likely to make your child wish she or he isn’t leaving. Your main aim is to help your child leave for camp feeling strong. It would be great to tell him or her that you’re sure he/she will have so much fun and that you can’t wait to hear all about it.
· Show confidence in your child’s courage to go to overnight camp
This one matters a lot. Self-confidence arises out of a sense of competence. In other word, the children will develop confidence not just because you tell them they are great, but because of their achievements. Without a doubt, it’s pleasing to hear encouraging words from dad or mom. However, words of praise mean more when they refer to a child’s specific efforts and accomplishments.
· Lastly, tell your children that you would like them to have a great time at the overnight camp
They need your blessings and not anxiety.
Remember, overnight camp provides your child with a lifelong learning and development experience.
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