Have you ever been homesick? Well I have, and it’s an awful feeling. You just want to be back at home where you feel comfortable and secure. And kids who go to camp – no matter how much they want to be there – aren’t immune from getting homesick. So how do you handle this challenge?
Let’s start with prevention. Last week Lori talked about writing letters ahead of time and having the camp counselors deliver one each day. That’s one great idea! We also talked about a child practicing being away from home overnight. That’s another great idea. Another is to work as a family in selecting the camp, packing the bag, and talking through what to expect. It’s okay to mention the possibility of missing home – parents, siblings, pets, food, bed, etc. Just don’t promise that you will go pick up a homesick camper!!
Instead, talk about what your child might do at camp when missing home. Let your child come up with some ideas and then add things like:
- keep busy with the activities, don’t stay in the cabin
- talk with a camp counselor or other kids
- make a list of all the fun things you want to tell your parents when you get home
Camp is all about having fun. But it’s also about kids developing confidence and gaining independence. A little struggle with homesickness may be painful but can be overcome and helps shore up confidence.
So Mom – when you get a text from your son pleading to come home after the first day, don’t hit the reply button with a yes. Dad, when you get a tearful phone call, agree that you too are missing your daughter. Then quickly steer the conversation to what’s happening at camp, not what’s going on at home. Could it be that camp helps foster some independence for Mom and Dad too? How have you handled homesick kids at camp?
Learn all about Iowa 4-H camping.
Last summer when my youngest daughter was almost 9 years old she went to her first over night camp (for three whole days and two nights!). I’ll admit I was anxious. She had only stayed with close friends and family members up to that point. It was really important that I not show her my level anxiety because the reality was that I was probably more anxious than her. Luckily, the camp must have dealt with anxious moms before. Camp leaders told us to write letters ahead of time and they would hand deliver them to the kids each day. That helped me. I felt like at least these short daily written messages were a way my daughter could connect with me, even though I wasn’t personally be able to connect with her. At the end of the three days I was thinking “I’m never letting her leave for that long again!” I pulled into the camp, she came running and giggling with all her new friends saying “I’m coming back next summer! And guess what? I’ll be old enough to stay for a WEEK!!” (I’ve been buying antacids on sale all year so I’m stocked up and ready!)
How have you encouraged your child to join in camp type activities knowing that you will be anxious without them? What tips do you have that worked to help ease the transition for both parent and child?
Your child really wants to go to camp this summer and after careful thought, you are ready to give it a try. Then the next question may be – day camp or sleepaway camp? This is a pretty big decision that can impact how successful the camping experience is for your child. While many children around the ages of 9 or 10 are probably ready for being away from parents and on their own, there are several factors to consider.
Let’s start with the obvious. Does your child stay overnight with grandparents or friends? Can he get through the night without calling you to come get him? Has he been away from home, and you, for more than a night or two?
It’s not a good idea to pack a bag and send your child off to camp for a week if she’s never slept away from home on her own. Instead this might be the summer to sign her up for day camps and plan a sleepover at a friend’s house.
However, if your child seems okay with being on his own away from home, go ahead and explore sleepaway camp options. Start with camps that have a shorter duration – of a week or less. If all goes reasonably well, then you can look at longer time frames next year.
As you’re making camp decisions, remember to take into account your child’s ability to take care of herself. Can she get up, find her clothes, and make it to events on time?Does she make friends easily? Is she willing to try new activities and foods? Do unfamiliar places, routines, and people cause anxiety? The answers to these questions will help you determine what types of camps are better choices.
Once you’ve explored these questions with your child, you’re ready to help pack the backpack for a day camp or the duffle bag for a sleepaway camp. Then let the fun begin!
The 4-H camp, sports camp and music camp brochures are arriving and the kids are begging for a summer adventure. But other than fun, is there any value to camp?
According to the American Camping Association, more than 8 million kids attend summer camp every year. So obviously camps are an attractive summer activity for many families.
We’ll take a look at some research on whether camp experiences can contribute to the healthy development of young people.
During May, we will examine the research and discuss how to help children choose an appropriate camp. Join us!