Tips for Overcoming Homesickness at Camp

Homesickness can affect both children and parents alike when kids go to camp, but here are some tips to help campers (and their parents!) deal with homesickness and separation anxiety.

Dealing with homesickness at camp

Camp Muskoka - Photograph by Stan Behal

When my kids were heading off to overnight camp last season, I had a lot of anxiety about homesickness. The reason? As a child I would NEVER have attended camp—I wouldn’t even go for a sleepover. In my mind, there was only one place for me:  the comfort of my own home surrounded by my loving family. But my kids were keen to go away to camp and I was very careful not to project my issues onto them. I was, however, mindful that it could happen so I tried to set them up for success.

Homesickness is natural, but there are a few little tricks that can help young campers through it:

  1. Don’t set your kids up to feel homesick. Be respectful of camp policies around contacting your child—they’ve been created by professionals who have dealt with this issue countless times. Constant phoning or e-mailing your child may not be helpful. And for goodness’ sake, avoid telling your kids how much you’re going to miss them. You don’t need them at camp worrying about how you’re doing. I also keep information about fun stuff going on at home to a minimum. I don’t want them feeling like they are missing out on family activities by being at camp.
  1. Have them go with a friend, sibling or cousin and arrange for them to bunk together if possible. This can make all the difference to a very shy or insecure child who would never brave camp alone.
  1. Make sure younger kids have a concept of how much time they’ll be away and have a way to measure it. Clearly mark the camp start and end dates on a calendar and highlight any especially fun days or events so they have specific things to look forward to and mark time with.
  1. Visit the camp or meet its counsellors beforehand with your child. The resulting sense of familiarity can be comforting. This is also particularly important if you have a child with special needs since you can ensure appropriate support systems and accommodations are in place. Because each camp and child is different, investing time to find the right match will minimize the chance of homesickness.
  1. Send along a “lovey”. Do they have something special at home that brings them comfort?  Send it along. Help them relax by packing reading/writing materials, comfy pillows and soft toys. I found that sending care packages was therapeutic for me—and I know they loved receiving them!

These little techniques all worked for my kiddos. In the words of my daughter, Posy (10) after her first sleepover experience at Glen Bernard Camp, “I learned so many cool things at camp. I thought being away from my family would be really hard, but camp is so much fun I didn’t even get homesick. When camp finished and my mom picked me up, the first thing I said to her was, “Can I go for longer next year?”

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Have you and your kids experienced similar homesickness when sending your child(ren) off to camp? Do you have tips for other parents and their kids? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Related:

Summer Camp Advice for Parents: Learning to let go

The magic cure for camp homesickness

The Rookies: First Time Summer Campers

Learning Benefits of Summer Camp

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