With camp about two months away, you are probably busy preparing, packing and planning ahead for what we know will be the best 7 weeks of our child’s year! By now you have probably read our Parent Guide (maybe even a few times), read one of our favorite books “Homesick & Happy” (and our discussion guide in Campminder) and are gearing up both physically and emotionally for letting him or her “go”. As you cross things off your ‘to-do’ lists, one concern may be lingering. Will my child be homesick and what will they do at camp to help him or her cope?
home·sick ˈhōmˌsik/ adjective: experiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.
Many parents (and some campers) worry about homesickness. Homesickness is totally normal. It means that you have a home worth missing! Camp is one of those truly unique experiences that allows children to conquer homesickness is a nurturing, loving, safe environment that will eventually become your child’s home away from home and “second family”. Learning how to overcome homesickness at a young age will help your child more easily deal with these emotions on future school trips, sleepovers, college and beyond. It’s all part of the process of becoming a healthy independent person! And isn’t that what we all want for our kids?
While our camp staff are well trained in helping children cope with homesickness, did you know that there are things YOU can do to prepare your child and set them up for success before they leave for camp?
It’s important to talk with your child honestly about what to expect and not ignore that this is part of being away from home. Here are some things you can say and do, which are well captured in the book “Homesick & Happy” (hint- read it if you haven’t already!).
- Be honest about the possibility of homesickness. We agree with Michael Thompson’s suggestion in his book of what you can say, “You will probably be a bit homesick when you go to camp. Most kids do, but they get over it in time if they try hard to deal with it head-on and put some effort into coping. Feeling homesick just means that you have a home worth missing, a place where people love you. It is the most natural thing in the world to feel homesickness. I felt homesick the first time I went away from home. It is part of going to camp.”
- Share stories about your own life. Did you go to summer camp or remember a time when you missed home? Is there a sibling in the house who may have been homesick and can openly discuss how they overcame homesickness?
- Define 7 weeks. Use a calendar to help them understand what 7 weeks looks like. E.g. 7 weeks is like 7 spring break vacations! 7 weeks is the time between now and your birthday.
- Get them involved in getting ready for camp! Ask them to help you fill out your forms, pick out their gear, shop for toiletries, pack, etc.
- Trust your parenting partners. Remember that you chose this camp for a reason. No one wants to see your child succeed more than we do!
Ironically, your child will most likely overcome homesickness way faster than you will overcome childsickness! What is childsickness?
child·sick ˈchildˌsik/ adjective: experiencing a longing for one’s child during a period of absence from him or her.
While your child is very busy at camp, trying new things, making new friends and growing up, YOU are at home imagining every detail of their experience and adjusting to life at a distance. Yes- there is a cure for childsickness, but you have to be willing to “let go”. Easier said than done? Try these 5 things to ensure that you also enjoy your summer. Because we know your child will be having a blast!
- Leave it to the camp to manage homesickness. When you talk or write with your child, focus on the positive to keep them moving forward in conquering homesickness.
- Don’t make any deals. If you let your child think you will take them home if they are unhappy, it can hold them back on having a successful experience.
- Practice makes perfect. Your child should practice the skills he will need (and eventually master) at camp -sleepovers, chores, overnight trips.
- Enjoy the gift of time. Use letters and slower forms of communication. Stay tuned for a future blog about “letters from camp”.
- Take a vacation! You’ve earned it. Parenting is one of the toughest jobs. You are giving your child the greatest gift by sending them to camp. You should celebrate!
We can only say, that once your child returns from camp, they may experience similar feelings of homesickness. Not to worry—this is not technically homesickness. Please see definition below:
camp·sick ˈcampˌsik/ adjective: experiencing a longing for Camp Towanda during a period of absence from it. Can only be cured by seeing camp friends, attending reunions and returning the next summer!
About Camp Towanda:
Camp Towanda is an independent, traditional, co-ed sleep-away camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It is privately owned, operated and directed by Mitch and Stephanie Reiter (who are celebrating 25 years as owners and directors). For over 90 years, Camp Towanda has continued to define what camp should really be. Our program offers state-of-the-art facilities, an excellent and professional athletic department, waterfront, extensive arts, drama and adventure programs, and special events. We are highly regarded and respected as an industry leader and are involved in giving back to various organizations throughout the year. Camp Towanda is accredited by the American Camp Association and a member of the Camp-Alert-Network, Wayne County Camp Association, Camp Owners and Directors Association and the Pennsylvania Camp Association.
About Homesick & Happy
Homesick & Happy – How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow by Michael Thompson is a must read for today’s parents. In an age when it’s the rare child who walks to school on his own, the thought of sending your “little ones” off to sleep-away camp can be overwhelming-for you and for them. But parents’ first instinct-to shelter their offspring above all else-is actually depriving kids of the major developmental milestones that occur through letting them go-and watching them come back transformed. In Homesick and Happy, renowned child psychologist Michael Thompson, PhD, shares a strong argument for, and a vital guide to, this brief loosening of ties. A great champion of summer camp, he explains how camp ushers your children into a thrilling world offering an environment that most of us at home cannot: an electronics-free zone, a multigenerational community, meaningful daily rituals like group meals and cabin clean-up, and a place where time simply slows down. In the buggy woods, icy swims, campfire sing-alongs, and daring adventures, children have emotionally significant and character-building experiences; they often grow in ways that surprise even themselves; they make lifelong memories and cherished friends. Thompson shows how children who are away from their parents can be both homesick and happy, scared and successful, anxious and exuberant. When kids go to camp-for a week, a month, or the whole summer-they can experience some of the greatest maturation of their lives, and return more independent, strong, and healthy.Author – Michael Thompson