Homesickness is incredibly common when children of any age attend sleep-away camp - it can happen whether it’s your child’s first summer or tenth! This is completely normal, and at Camp Casco, we are well-equipped to address homesickness in campers of all ages.
Our daily schedule is jam-packed with fun activities and surprises, which generally help keep camper minds preoccupied. Often, a listening ear, a hug, and a gentle redirection of the conversation cure most cases. Encouraging camp friends and silly counselors can quickly turn frowns upside down. But research shows that homesickness is not only common - it’s also preventable! Here are some tips and tricks for parents that have been shown to decrease homesickness and maximize your child’s time at camp:
- Practice spending time away from home. If your child has not attended a sleep-away camp before, trying a sleepover at a family member’s house or an overnight with a school friend can go a long way in helping a child get comfortable being away from home for a night.
- Get excited about activities and new experiences. We’ve mentioned a few activities and theme days in this packet, but for more information to help your child get absolutely pumped for this year’s camp session, check out our Previous Camps page on our website (campcasco.org/previous-camps) for videos and pictures from years past! Excitement is an excellent way to refocus on FUN.
- Involve your child in preparing for camp. An important part of emotionally preparing your child to attend camp includes making sure he or she feels like they have a say in the experience. Include your child in any pre-camp shopping, packing, or organization to allow him or her to feel more responsibility and ownership of the camp experience. We’ll continue this encouragement on our end by allowing campers some freedom and flexibility in their activities and day-to-day life.
- Talk about it. Many families worry that mentioning homesickness could encourage it in a child. This is not the case! Actually, talking about homesickness normalizes the experience and helps a child label and understand any new, difficult feelings that it may cause. Don’t be afraid to discuss homesickness with your child ahead of time! Sharing your own tips and tricks for avoiding homesickness better equips your child.
- Avoid encouraging your own anxieties. You may feel very nervous about your child going away to sleep-away camp, especially if this is the first time. This is very normal. However, we encourage you to vent your own anxieties and fears privately to other adults, rather than to your child directly. Hearing a parent’s fears over sleep-away camp may teach a child that there is something to be fearful of, and encourage more homesickness than is necessary. Share your own concerns with your partner, your family, your friends, or us (Seriously, call us! We are here for you!), instead.
- Avoid making pick-up deals. A common answer to a child’s question “what if I get homesick?” is the response, “Then I’ll come get you!” We respectfully request that parents avoid making pick-up deals with your child, as it provides an easy alternative to participating and fully immersing in the camp experience. Even the best-trained, most experienced camp counselors will have a massive challenge trying to encourage and redirect a homesick camper who has made a pick-up deal with mom or dad. Reassuring your child that, yes, he or she may get homesick, but that he or she is absolutely strong enough to work through it and have an amazing time, will go such a long way in helping to equip your child to embrace the short time we have at camp.