Homesickness is an attachment to what children feel is familiar. It can occur at any point when they leave for their first sleepover, camp, college, or going abroad. Providing a foundation on how to recognize homesickness and cope will set your children up to successfully lead a lifestyle where they can take on new adventures and adjust to new periods of life while increasing confidence, independence, and critical thinking. Here are five tips to prepare for camp.
To see if your child is ready to go to overnight camp, going to an extended sleepover or minicamp is a great way to allow you and your kids the chance to experience what it would be like to attend overnight camp. Many summer camps offer the opportunity to attend a mini-camp or family camp to provide children the chance to adjust to the idea of being in a new environment and become comfortable with their new surroundings.
Choosing the right camp
Letting your child be active in the process of selecting a summer camp will give you the chance to discuss what camp will be like. Allowing them the choice to select which camp they wish to attend will make them feel more in control and excited for the upcoming experience.
Having a conversation about the positives of camp will help make your child feel included and excited. Teach your kid to identify homesickness, and then come up with coping strategies to overcome the yucky feeling. Explain that feeling homesick is normal, and that the unpleasantness does eventually go away. A great time to talk is when packing for camp. During this time, you can help kids pack items that might make them feel more connected to home, such as photos, stuffed animal, or pre-addressed envelopes.
Go with a buddy
Attending overnight camp with a familiar face may ease the stress and adjustment of being in a new setting. Many camps allow cabin requests to ensure that friends stay together in the same cabins. Your child can look forward to camp with their friend, adding to the positive anticipation of being away from home.
Stay in contact with your children by sending letters and care packages with words of encouragement. Mail a letter before camp starts so it will be there when your camper arrives. When you drop child off at camp, be calm and happy. Staff members are trained to help kids cope with homesickness and have your child’s best interests in mind. Don’t tell your child that you will pick them up if they feel homesick or upset. It is normal to feel homesickness at any age, and providing an escape route leads to the expectation that your child won’t have a positive experience at camp.
Elise Chapin is a UW-Eau Claire graduate who spent many youthful summers at camp.