Dealing with Homesickness
A child’s first time away at camp can be a very exciting time. They’ll experience some amazing new things and make friendships that can last for years to come, but what happens if that child gets homesick while they’re away? Homesickness, is a part of the camp experience that many children face- and overcome- every camp season. Here are some simple steps that you can take as a parent, or as a camp councillor to prepare for, and ease a child’s desire to return home during their stay at camp.
As a Parent:
- Talk with kids about the upcoming separation. Tell kids that it's normal to feel homesick.
- Involve kids in the decision to spend time away from home.
- Send kids on a "practice" trip, such as few days at a friend's or relative's house
- If possible, help kids meet at least one person (adult or child) from the new setting before leaving.
- Encourage kids to make friends and seek support from trusted adults when they're gone.
- Be enthusiastic and optimistic about your child's away-from-home experience.
- Give kids pre-stamped, preaddressed envelopes and notebook paper when they leave.
- Don't use the experience as a drug holiday for kids on medications.
- Empathize with your child’s fears, but do not get infected by them.
- Above all, experts say, don’t make a “pickup deal.” Never promise your child that if camp doesn’t go well, you’ll be there for an early retrieval. Pickup deals leave parents with only two options, both of them unfortunate. If you show up, the child loses the opportunity to enjoy camp and the opportunity to learn how to cope with separation. If you don’t, you go back on your word.
- And, please, tell your children that you want them to have fun. Children need to go off to camp with your blessing, not your anxiety.
As a councillor:
- Do something fun, keep kids busy and playing with their new friends, if they are having trouble making new friends then introduce them or start some easy group activities for everyone to play.
- Always stay positive about camp and the camp experience ‘Look at the bright side’ remind the child of all the fun new activities and friends they get to experience in the new setting.
- Remind them that their time at camp is shorter than they may realize. Count the sleeps or days until we go home!
- Write down and review all the fun things they did that day in a journal or letter for home. This allows them to review all the positive things they are experiencing at camp.
- Don't dwell on home. Talk excitedly about all the fun things they can experience at camp. Brief supportive conversations are better than long therapeutic conversations.
- Ask them to think about what a loved one would say to make them feel better. (mom would want you to have fun!)
- Most importantly don’t give them an ‘out’ to go, or call, home. Letting them give up on the positive experience of camp won’t benefit the child or their loved ones. As a staff member you are the one providing empathy and offering coping strategies (write a letter home, join an activity), so take time to understand the child’s individual needs and listen to their fears before selecting the most effective coping strategy for the situation.
Camp is a wonderful opportunity, once children are properly encouraged to give the activities and experiences being offered to them a chance. Take the time to properly prepare children before camp and encourage them during their stay and homesickness can be easily overcome!
Everyone knows the value of getting away from routines and technology to spend time in nature. Around the world, kids feel a different kind of energy take hold as their camp busses roll off highways through camp gates each summer.
Beginning in 1946, Camp Bil-O-Wood Has been run by the Ludwig Family for generations.
Keats Camps has been serving youth and families for over 85 years as a part of the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada. Thriving during the summer months, our property comes alive with over a thousand campers & staff and all of their visiting parents & friends.
Manitoba Pioneer Camp
Founded in 1940, Manitoba Pioneer Camp has been operating ever since as a life-changing summer camp for children and youth. It is part of a network of nine Inter-Varsity Camps across Canada.