Homesickness Is a concern whether it be separating from parents at camp or overnights at grandparents or friends.
Here are some important things you should know that Chris Thurber, a camping expert, Ashley Marx, Camp Yavneh Social Worker, and I have come up with to help you understand homesickness and to get your children prepared.
True or False???
Homesickness (or “missing home”) is normal.
True: Researchers found that 95 percent of boys and girls who
were spending at least two weeks at overnight camp felt some
degree of homesickness.
Homesickness is usually severe.
False. Nearly everyone misses something about home when they’re away. Some campers most miss their parents; others most miss home cooking, a sibling, or the family pet. The vast majority of children have a great time at camp and are not bothered by even mild homesickness,
There are strategies that work for homesick kids.
True. Homesickness is something everyone can learn to cope with.
From being distracted, to writing letters home, to keeping a calendar and lots of TLC. Most kids use more than one strategy to help them.
Homesickness builds confidence.
True. Overcoming a bout of homesickness and enjoying time away from home nurtures children’s independence and prepares them for the future.
The fact that second-year campers are usually less homesick than first-year campers is evidence of this powerful growth.
Homesickness has no upside.
False. If there’s something about home children miss, that means there’s something about home they love — and that’s a wonderful thing. Sometimes just knowing that what they feel is a reflection of love makes campers feel much better.
In the book Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow, psychologist and author Michael Thompson, Ph.D., interviewed hundreds of adults about their camping experience. When asked to consider the “sweetest moment of their childhood”, more than 80 percent of adults chose an experience when they were away from a parent and with a peer. His research shows that in addition to making kids into confident, independent, well-adjusted individuals, camp can improve your children’s chances of getting into college, scoring a better job, and mastering vital leadership skills.
There’s nothing a parent can do to prepare their child for this possible aspect of the overnight camp experience.
False. Here’s a recipe for positive camp preparation:
- Arrange lots of practice time away from home.
- Share your optimism, not your anxiety.
- Empathize with your child’s fears, but do not get infected by them.
- Convey to your children that homesickness is normal, that it means he or she has a home that he or she loves.
- Reassure your child that you are sure he or she will get help from counselors and friends when needed.
- Never ever make a pick-up deal.
- Tell your children that you want them to have fun. Children need to go off to camp with your blessing, not your anxiety.
What if I get a homesick letter from my child??
Even though we will be doing some of the same things you are advising your child to do, tell them to…
- Stay busy. Doing a fun, physical activity nearly always reduces homesickness intensity.
- Stay positive. Remembering all the cool stuff you can do at camp keeps the focus on fun, not on home.
- Stay in touch. Writing letters, looking at a photo from home, or holding a memento from home can be very comforting.
- Stay social. Making new friends is a perfect antidote to bothersome homesickness. Talking to the staff at camp is also reassuring.
- Stay focused. Remember that you’re not at camp forever, just a few weeks. Bringing a calendar to camp helps you be clear about the length of your stay.
Your help preparing your child for this amazing growth experience will pay huge dividends. After a session of camp, you’ll see an increase in your child’s confidence, social skills, and leadership. And while your son or daughter is at camp, you can enjoy a well-deserved break from full-time parenthood. Remember; Homesickness is part of normal development. Our job should be to coach children through the experience, not to avoid the topic altogether.