Homesickness happens. It’s normal for children to experience a little of it and it’s also normal for parents and family members to worry when they do. In fact, it’s even normal to worry that childrenmight feel homesick. But, instead of worrying, there are actions you can take and there’s reassurance we want campers and families to have.
1. Camp people are here for you! Counselors and others who work at camp know what to do when homesickness happens. Long before campers arrive, counselors learn the camp’s ways of helping children who are missing home. The transition to camp is a big one; camps put a lot of energy into partnering with families to help children succeed at camp. When homesickness happens, campers need a little extra support and their families need to know how things are going. Camps partner with families; the folks at camp care about how your child is adjusting. You have a camp family now. Pay attention to what they have to say on this important subject!
2. Talk about homesickness before camp! Help your camper make a plan about what to do if homesickness happens. Encourage your child to seek homesickness advice or help from a counselor as part of the plan. Maybe there’s a small but special picture or memento that can provide comfort to the child—a reassuring note or a stuffed animal for instance. Being prepared ahead of time and enacting a plan that has already been made is a very different experience than simply reacting to homesickness in the moment. The one thing that should not be part of your homesickness plan is a rescue plan, however. Express confidence in your camper’s ability to overcome homesickness (with the help of counselors) IF it happens; invest your energy in making the camp experience successful, not ending it early.
3. Learn all about homesickness and how overcoming it is one of the most empowering experiences a camper can have!
Michael Thompson, Ph.D., as popular with schools as he is with parents, is out with a new book,Homesick and Happy, which is full of excellent advice. Time away from parents can really help a child grow as Dr. Thompson outlines in this Washington Post interview!
Check out this practical advice from homesickness expert Dr. Chris Thurber, school psychologist at Phillips Exeter Academy and frequent presenter at the ACA New England Conference, which is attended by 800+ camp professionals annually.
4. Focus on supporting your camper while at camp! Have you written some upbeat notes and letters and sent packages?
5. After camp is over, remember to discuss homesickness with your child. What helped? What would have helped? How do you both feel now that you’re on the other side of it? Reflect on how the experience of overcoming homesickness without "rescue" from parents has allowed you both to grow. While homesickness is not fun, working through it almost always proves to be an indelible experience for both parent and child.