Homesickness is an emotion that most campers feel to some degree at camp. Fortunately, in most cases, the fun and excitement of camp far outweigh any sad feelings. If this is your child’s first experience away from you for a significant period of time, we encourage you to read through the following recommendations.
Homesickness Dos & Don’ts
1. Focus on how much fun camp will be.
2. Tell them it’s natural to miss their parents and home when they’re away, and that those feelings are normal.
3. Discuss possible coping strategies if they feel sad at camp, such as:
• Keeping a positive attitude and having fun, even when feeling sad.
• Talking to their counselor or other adult at camp.
• Writing a letter telling about camp and their feelings.
• Keeping a journal about camp.
• Keeping busy with fun camp activities and friends.
• Taking pictures to show parents after camp.
• Keeping a calendar and marking off days to see how quickly camp is going.
4. Let them know how proud you are of their independence and how excited you are to hear of their accomplishments when they finish camp.
5. Tell them that there is not an option to call you or come home early (if they ask you).
6. Encourage them to write letters and postcards telling about their new friends and the many activities they’re doing at camp.
7. Write encouraging, cheerful letters to your child.
8. Acknowledge your own bittersweet feelings about your child being able to live without you for a few weeks, but don’t express your sadness about missing them.
9. Sign your child up for the bus or have them take a flight into Fresno on the way to camp. It makes for much easier good-byes at the beginning of camp.
10. Remind yourself that there are many more tears at the end of camp than at the beginning.
11. Expect a sad letter. Realize that letters are usually written during quiet times when campers are feeling more reflective. Usually, they are perfectly happy long
before the letter makes it to your mailbox.
1. Tell them, “If you are sad after a few days of camp, call me, and I’ll come pick you up.” This will set your child up for failure, since most likely they will have some sad feelings that they will need to work through.
2. Express a lack of confidence in their ability to be away at camp, either directly to them or in front of others.
3. Tell them you’ll be sad and miserable at home without them.
4. Write sad letters to your child outlining how much you miss them and telling them events they are missing at home. If your child is homesick, it will be encouraging to hear that “nothing exciting is happening at home.”
How We Handle Homesickness
During our staff training, our counselors learn positive ways for handling camper homesickness. Our counselors and staff will do the following things to help your child work through the normal adjustment period of being away from home:
1. Give your child time and attention. Talk to them about their feelings and let them know they are normal.
2. Do things for them that make camp more “homey” for them, such as read them a bedtime story, tuck them into their sleeping bag, etc.
3. Encourage your child to use coping strategies that have worked for other campers (see list above).
When to Contact Camp
If you receive a sad letter from your child, call us so that we can observe your child and talk with his/her counselor. We will call you back with detailed information about your child’s attitude and behavior. Our Camp Directors, Assistant Directors, and Camp Moms are in camp with your children throughout the camp day and will call you back within 24 hours.
When we will Contact You
If your child is visibly upset (crying frequently, not participating, having trouble eating or sleeping) and not getting adjusted to camp after two full camp days, we will call you to let you know what is happening and discuss a plan for helping your child adjust. You will not be contacted if your child mentions that he/she misses his/her parents but appears happy and is participating for the majority of the day.
Without the option of going home, most campers adjust to camp within a few days. Campers who overcome homesickness and successfully complete their camp stay feel a great sense of accomplishment and independence.
Read the related article, “Kidsickness: Help for First-Time Camp Parents”
- Homesick and Happy, By Michael Thompson, PhD
- Summer Camp Handbook (online edition), by Dr. Christopher Thurber
- Some soothing advice for unhappy campers (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- campparents.org (American Camp Association)
- Ready for Camp: Watch Bob Ditter Video | Camp Parents | American Camp Association