Planning to Minimize Homesickness
Pre-Camp Planning to Minimize Homesickness Almost all first-time campers and many returning campers experience some level of homesickness. 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, homesickness usually subsides 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. Be very honest with your child about what it means to sign up for something and follow through with it. Leaving camp early is an absolute last resort.
• Develop a camp nighttime routine at home. Practice falling asleep without outside noise such as television or music. A fan or other ambient noise might help acclimate campers to typical nighttime sounds. Units at camp have no electricity, so make sure that the camper is comfortable falling asleep in full darkness. Have them sleep with a flashlight next to the bed to practice using it at night. Finally, have your child spend a night or two 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. 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.
• Write to your child. Kids love to receive letters and BunkNotes at camp and getting one from home on the first or second day does wonders. Send a letter a couple of days early to ensure it arrives on time. Be aware that 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.
• Plan to attend our Open House on Saturday, May 7, 2016 from 1 pm-4 pm and Annual Open House and Homecoming Saturday, June 4, 2016 from 11 am-4 pm. This gives campers a chance to become familiar with the camp grounds, so they are not as overwhelmed on opening day. Call the camp office to register for this sneak peak of Camp!
In the event that your child does have a bout with homesickness, please be assured that he/she will receive individual counseling directly from staff members trained for that purpose. The vast majority of homesick children feel better within 24 hours of arriving. Finally, please be assured that a camp representative will contact you directly for support if your child is having a particularly hard time with homesickness. Otherwise, no news is good news.