October 26, 2022 03:00 PM
The first time at overnight camp can be both exciting and nerve-wracking- for kids AND parents! It is a new place, with different schedules and rules, bringing many kids out of their comfort zone. Homesickness is a natural part of overnight camping, with 95% of campers experiencing some kind of homesickness, but only a small amount with persistent homesickness. While we train our staff extensively on how to work with campers missing home, there are things parents can do to prepare their child for camp.
1.Send your child to a relative’s or friend’s house for the weekend
This is on of the best ways to see if your child is ready for camp! By starting with a sleepover with someone they already know, they can become more open to the idea of sleeping away from home. This allows you to manage any anxieties prior to a longer stay away at summer camp, where they will be spending the night in a less comfortable setting with cabinmates they barely know yet!
2. Talk about what the camp experience will be like
Did you attend camp as a child? Tell your child all about it! What was each day like? How did you make a friend? This can help them envision the experience, get excited, and know what to expect when they are there.
3. Visit camp before hand
Many camps have tour days or open houses in the months before camp. If you can, visit the camp so your child can see what it will be like and familiarize themselves with the space. Sometimes something as simple as knowing where the bathroom or Dining Hall is before the first day of camp can alleviate some anxieties! Seeing cabins, activity spaces, and meeting some camp staff can lessen some stress and anxieties on check-in day!
4. Set up a communication plan
If you know your camper will be missing you, set up a realistic plan of how you will communicate with them. Many camps have an email system, like Bunk1 where you can email your camper (and add reply sheets!). These emails do have a delay, so make sure your camper knows communication is not immediate! You can even drop off some pre-written letters to the camp post office or your child’s counselor for them to get in the first few days!
5. Avoid making promises to pick them up early or call them
Telling your camper that you will come early if they don’t like camp will not help them adjust! The camp will likely call if any homesickness problem is extreme or lasts past the first few days. Typically, camps avoid having homesick campers talk to their parents on the phone because we found this often makes homesickness much worse.
6. Send comfort items
A favorite stuffed animal or a picture of family can help soothe them when they are missing home! Send them with things that feel familiar to them to help them adjust to the new environment.
7. Give their counselor tips and tricks!
You know your kid the best! At drop off, be sure to tell their counselor any information or tips you think will be helpful in working with your camper. The safer and more comfortable they can make your camper feel, the more successful their camp experience will be! Do they like alone time before bed? Does distraction work best if they are feeling sad or do they prefer to talk about it? Help set them up for success!
With these few tips, you can help your camper overcome missing home and fully enjoy their camp experience! At Camp Tockwogh, we like to say “You can miss home and STILL be having fun!” If you have any concerns about your camper’s stay or want to ask questions to see if we are a right fit, be sure to contact us.