The summer of '21 is getting started, and you just may have a child gearing up for his first sleep-way camp experience. While you feel confident your child is ready, the transition from home to camp is a tender one at first before all of the "ice" is broken. It’s absolutely normal for kids to feel homesick at camp at first, says the American Camp Association (ACA). And summer camps are experts at getting kids involved in fun activities in which they can make connections with friends. Still, before your child goes, a few helpful strategies can help you ease your child's mind.
The ACA offers the following tips for parents to help their child deal with homesickness when they are away:
- DO: Before camp, talk with your child about being away from home and what's that like, staying positive.
- DO: Practice separations, like sleepovers at a friend’s house or a week at grandma's.
- DO: Reach an agreement ahead of time on calling each other. If your child’s destination has a no-phone-calls policy, honor it.
- DO: Send a note or care package ahead of time to arrive the first day.
- DON'T: Send a care package if the camp doesn't permit them.
- DO: Pack a personal item from home, like a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.
- DO: offer calm reassurance if your child calls and wants to talk, but avoid the temptation to bring him home early.
- DO: Talk candidly with the director about his perspective on your child’s adjustment.
- DO: Encourage your child to connect.
- DO: Trust your instincts. While most instances of homesickness pass in a day or two, there is a small percentage of cases that are severe. If your child is not eating or sleeping because of anxiety or depression, it’s time to go home. But don’t make your child feel like a failure if his stay is cut short. Focus on the positive and try again next year.
- DON'T: Say things like, "If you feel homesick, I'll come get you." This type of message can undermine your child's confidence and sense of independence. Remember: your child wants to enjoy camp. Focus on encouraging his new experience.
- DON'T: Go on and on about how much you miss your child in a letter or a call. Write about what's happening at home, stay upbeat and confident.