Homesickness is not uncommon at camp, but overcoming it can be one of the biggest successes a boy experiences while at camp. Now is the time to prepare your boy(s) before they adventure off to camp so they can have a great experience, as well as you not fretting over them at home.
So, what is homesickness anyways?
Homesickness is an impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and family. Not only do campers face homesickness, but even some counselors struggle with it during their first several days at camp. Homesickness usually occurs during the first few days, if at all. Most of the time, campers only become homesick during times of inactivity when they have time to reflect on home and their normal routine, like during rest hour or at night. It is extremely rare for a child to be affected the entire day.
How can parents help prevent homesickness?
Sleeping over at friend’s house or experiencing short periods away from home, like a weekend getaway or weekend camp during the year will help build up a child’s since of independence. The first time a child is separated from home will always be the worst.
Allow them to be a part of the camp decision process. Let them help with the pre-orders and packing their things. Give them several opportunities to watch camp videos and be engaged with camp on social media or even scroll through the website. The more familiar they become with the experience, the easier the transition becomes and the more excitement you are able to build up for them.
Be positive about their experience at camp. For example, tell them you are going to miss them, but follow up with telling them that they are going to have a great time. If they think you are going to be missing them terribly or even sad for them to go off to camp, they will carry that burden with them throughout camp and it makes it harder for them to transition into the camp routine.
Sometimes packing a blanket or stuffed animal from home can help too; something for comfort during the down times in their cabin. However, it is camp and it is a possibility that this item could get lost or dirty, so avoid any truly treasured items.
Camp is a huge growing tool and a huge step towards independence. Overcoming homesickness will give them skills that will be valuable for their entire life, so be encouraging about the whole thing! If they have suffered from homesickness in the past, don’t make them feel like a failure and prevent it from happening again, but instead focus on the positive, tell them it is normal and encourage them to make it through!
Send pre-addressed and stamp stationary. Allowing your child to write home or to friends and family will help keep their mind focused on being able to communicate with you during down-time at camp when they are most likely to become homesick. Allow them to spend their time communicating with you instead of just thinking about you.
Remember you can email and write letters to your boy(s) while at camp, but be aware of what you say. If you constantly remind them how much you and everyone else at home misses them, including fluffy the dog, they may feel like they need to be home. It is OK to tell them you miss them, but keep it encouraging and happy and let them know that everyone is doing great (even if you are son-sick and can’t wait for him to be home). On the contrary, do not go into details about the wonderful, amazing time everyone is having without them because the opposite might occur and they may feel like they are missing out on family adventures, even though they are having the time of their lives at camp!
Don’t worry. Your natural reaction is to call on the first day just about bedtime to see how your camper is doing. Remember, our counselors are trained to recognize and deal with symptoms of homesickness and they will do everything in their power to give them a wonderful camp experience. Their letters come home through snail mail, so if you receive a homesick letter 5 days into camp, it is likely that they sent it on the first day. Do not panic! Give us a call at Falling Creek and we will immediately follow up on his condition and get back with you to let you know if he is still struggling or if it was just a 1st night thing.