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Camp Ondessonk Coping with homesickness

Camp Ondessonk was recently featured on WPSD Local 6 on a segment called, “Coping with homesickness”.

WPSD Local 6: Your news, weather, and sports authority

Transcript provided by WPSD Local 6 and NBC affiliate located in Paducah KY:

Summer camp can be one of the best childhood experiences for a kid. Homesickness on the other hand, can be one of the worst.

Camp Ondessonk is a Huron American Indian word for ‘bird of prey’.

Campers can soar like a bird, swim like a fish, or climb like a squirrel.

Ben Restoff advises campers to not be scared, “It’s all safe.”

Ayden admits he was a little scared of zip-lining at first, but he conquered that fear, “if you ever get a chance to do it, you should do it. It was really fun.”

That’s something of a theme at camp. Try new things, meet new friends. Amber was excited that some new campers were about to arrive, “today we’re gonna get ten more kids and it’s gonna be really awesome.”

Another big hit? A game called Gaga or Gaga Ball; it requires skill and teamwork.

Sometimes it takes a team effort when a camper gets homesick. Brian Croft, Services Director at Camp Ondessonk says Antonio got a little homesick, “but what we did is we helped him; homesickness typically lasts no more than 24 hours.”

Brian Croft says once campers get immersed in all the activities, they don’t have time to be homesick. But he also says a little preparation before camp helps. Get your child involved in the planning process, “take them to the website. Show them what they’re going to be doing. Show them the brochure, show them pictures.”

Croft says one of the worst things parents can do before camp is say, “don’t worry, if you don’t like it or you get homesick, we’ll come get you. Camps like us, we’ve been around 55 years, we’ve seen a lot of homesick campers, we’ve seen it all, you know. You have to give it that time. And it will get better. And they’re going to leave a completely different camper than when they came.”

Corbin agrees; he says he’s feeling the Camp Ondessonk confidence, “it really, like, brightens my spirit.”

They should put that on the camp brochure! A tip about brochures- pay attention to them! That’s where they’ll suggest what your child should pack, and just as important: ‘what not to pack’.

Camp Ondessonk’s recommendations:  Parenting to Minimize and Coping with Homesickness

Almost all first-time campers and many returning campers experience some level of homesickness.  Symptoms include:  being withdrawn, complaints of other ailments, and feelings of missing home.  These feelings are natu­ral, extremely common, and very real.  Most cases of homesickness are mild.  Some cases are challenging.  Our staff members are trained to help campers work through these feelings and as a result, homesick feelings usually subside within 24 hours of arriving at camp.  When preparing your child for camp, you will minimize the likeli­hood of a serious case of homesickness by using the following parenting strategies:

Don’t tell your child that you will pick them up if he/she doesn’t like camp right away.•      Regrettably, we encounter this fairly often.  Though parents who give this message have good intentions, their children have an extremely hard time getting better when homesick.  The result is that fun and independence are rarely gained.  Be very honest with your child about what it means to sign up for something and follow through with it.  Leaving camp early should never be introduced as an option.

Have your child spend a night away from home with a friend.• 

Involve your child in planning for camp.•                While doing this, focus on the fun that will be had.

If you sense that your child is nervous about going to camp and missing home, talk about it.•             Use an encouraging approach and supply your child with ideas that will help him/her work through it.  Suggest writing a letter or taking along a favorite keepsake from home.  You know your child better than anyone.  What has helped her/him handle stressful situations in the past?  Any and all conversation about this subject will help as long as encouragement is at the forefront.

If possible, send your child with a friend.•                Be sure that they are truly friends, not just acquaintances from school.  If your child is going to camp alone, emphasize the opportunities that he/she will have to meet new people.  Many of our staff, including Ondessonk’s Executive Director, came to Camp Ondessonk alone as campers.  Being alone should be seen as an opportunity.

Discuss what camp will be like. •             Read this booklet with your child and let him/her know what to expect.  Focus on the positive aspects of camp.  Talk about the fun activities, the idea of “growing up,” and the independence and adventure of it all.  Visit our website with your child.  Look at the photos and read about Ondessonk together (www.ondessonk.com).

Establish realistic expectations.•               Camp, like life, has high points and low ones.  Not every moment will be filled with wonder and excitement.  Encouraging your child to try new things and make new friends will help the experience be a positive one.

Think of camp as a learning experience for both the child and the parent.•           This is a wonderful opportunity for you and your child to practice “letting go” in a safe environment.  Though it might not feel as such, this will enhance your relationship with your child.

Write to your child.•                 Kids love to receive letters at camp and getting one from home on the first or second day does wonders.  Send a letter a couple of days before your child goes to camp.  Be careful what you write because homesickness may be brought on by a letter that tells a child how much she/he is missed, or how much fun everyone else at home is having.  Letters of an encouraging tone help pro­mote a positive camp experience.  Please note that Campers are not allowed to receive faxes or phone calls due to the high number of campers and our lim­ited resources.  Also, check out our website to learn more about how to email your camper with our Bunk 1 service!

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