Summer Camp 2010: The Dos and Don'ts of Homesickness

summer camp boysSleep-away camp is a rite of passage for many coming-of-age kids. For some, summer camp is the first time they will leave their parents behind for several days in a row.

And they will probably miss you ... so much ...

Here's how to handle some of the common issues with homesickness -- yours too, because you will probably miss them ... so much ...


The Dos and Don'ts of Homesickness 

from American Camp Association (ACA)

For millions of children, youth, and adults, summer camp is right around the corner. Camp is a unique environment that promotes growth and independence. For many families in today's plugged-in society, camp is the first real separation they have experienced -- and many parents may be worried about homesickness -- both for their happy camper, and for themselves.

Research indicates that homesickness is normal. It's common for campers and parents to feel a tinge of homesickness at some point during the camp session. So, how can parents help?

The American Camp Association (ACA) recommends the following dos and don'ts families can use to help deal with homesickness:

  • DO encourage independence throughout the year. Practice separations, such as sleepovers at a friend's house, can simulate the camp environment.
  • DO involve your child in the process of choosing a camp. The more that the child owns the decision, the more comfortable the child will feel being at camp.
  • DO understand the camp's philosophy on how issues, like homesickness, are addressed. Talk candidly with the camp director to understand his/her perspective on your child's adjustment.
  • DO discuss what camp will be like before your child leaves. Consider role-playing anticipated situations, such as using a flashlight to find the bathroom.
  • DO reach an agreement ahead of time on calling each other. If your child's camp has a no-phone-calls policy, honor it.
  • DO send a note or care package ahead of time to arrive the first day of camp. Acknowledge, in a positive way, that you will miss your child. For example, you can say, "I am going to miss you, but I know that you will have a good time at camp."
  • DO pack a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal.
  • DON'T bribe. Linking a successful stay at camp to a material object sends the wrong message. The reward should be your child's newfound confidence and independence.
  • DON'T plan an exit strategy. If a "rescue call" comes from the child, offer calm reassurance and put the time frame into perspective.
  • DON'T feel guilty about encouraging your child to stay at camp. For many children, camp is a first step toward independence and plays an important role in their growth and development.
  • DO trust your instincts. While most incidents of homesickness will pass in a day or two, approximately 7 percent of the cases are severe. If your child isn't eating or sleeping because of anxiety or depression, parents should work with the camp director and other camp staff to evaluate the situation.
  • DO remember that camp staff are trained to ease homesickness.
  • DON'T make your child feel like a failure if their stay at camp is cut short. Focus on the positive and encourage your child to try camp again next year.

Adam Weinstein, Executive Director of the American Camp Association, NY says, "Severe homesickness is rare and tends to pass quickly. Parents should send their children to camp with their children knowing they are confident that they will have a great time and be away successfully. Do not make pick-up deals where you agree to come get your child if he or she is unhappy for a period of time. Pick-up deals tell your child you think they will fail when in fact you think they will succeed or you would not have signed them up. Camp staff will help your child if they are homesick and give your child a safe, fun, and exciting first experience away from home."

Is your child attending overnight summer camp this year? Are you worried?


Image via The Refinery Junior High Ministry

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