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Working Through Homesickness at Camp

Being away from home builds self-esteem and independence

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  • Involve children in the process of preparing for camp. The more they own the decision, the more comfortable they will feel being at camp.
  • Make sure to understand the camp's philosophy on how issues, such as homesickness, are addressed. Talk candidly with the camp director to understand his/her perspective on the adjustment to camp life.
  • Discuss what to expect at camp before leaving for camp. Consider role-playing anticipated situations, such as using a flashlight to find the bathroom.
  • Reach an agreement ahead of time on calling each other, but make sure to honor the camp's policy on phone calls.
  • Send a note or care package ahead of time to arrive the first day of camp. Acknowledge missing the child, in a positive way. For example, saying "I am going to miss you, but I know that you will have a good time at camp," lets the camper know that families are thinking about them, but confident in their ability to adapt to camp.
  • Pack a personal item or two from home, such as a stuffed animal.
  • Avoid bribing behaviors. Families send the wrong message when they link a successful stay at camp to a material object. Families should focus on the real rewards – like new found 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. While most incidents of homesickness pass quickly, parents know their child best. If parents have concerns (for example, the child is not eating or sleeping, or appears overly anxious), they should immediately talk to their camp director. Camp staff are trained to identify and ease homesickness, and are a valuable resource for parents as well as campers.

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    Tags: Camp, In This Issue

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