Homesickness is a completely normal feeling that everyone experiences throughout life, especially when you’re a kid. It’s the natural anxiety that occurs as a result of leaving home or being separated from family and loved ones.
Studies show that almost all kids who leave home for summer camp experience at least some form of homesickness, however, the way you address it as a parent can have a big impact on how your child adjusts to being away from home.
Several factors can affect how intensely your child will experience homesickness. If your child has little to no experience at sleepovers or has never spent any real time away from home, he or she may feel symptoms of homesickness more intensely.
You can begin preparing for camp ahead of time to make the packing process less sudden. Work with your child on planning and packing so that your child feels mentally prepared to be away from home for a few weeks. Consider doing a practice run by having your child spend a weekend away from home, maybe with a friend or an extended family member.
Send your child to camp with pre-addressed and pre-stamped envelopes so that they can readily write home if and when they feel homesick. Pack a stuffed animal or special blanket that feels comforting and reminds your child of home. If you are especially worried that your child will experience homesickness upon arrival at camp, mail a letter to the camp ahead of time so that it will be there when they arrive.
Before your child leaves for camp, talk with them about strategies for coping with separation anxiety. Make sure they feel comfortable talking with a camp counselor or other trusted adult while at camp. Remind them that camp is just a week or a few weeks long, and they can always write home whenever they feel the need.
Check out our blog post on homesickness does and don’ts for more tips and tricks on how to help your child deal with homesickness at camp.
Phone calls with campers are never good ideas and are not, as a rule, permitted at sleepaway camp. Not only can phone calls make the symptoms of homesickness more intense, even a child who is having a great time at camp—making friends and having a blast—can fall apart upon hearing mom or dad’s voice.
A great way to keep tabs on your child is through daily photo postings. Seeing your child participating in activities and surrounded by friends can calm your anxiety. If you feel that you need to be closely connected to how your child is doing at camp, stay in touch with camp staff. Camp administrators will always be happy to communicate directly with parents and provide updates.
Trust yourself that you chose the best camp for your child, and remember that homesickness is completely natural. Avoid telling your child that you will come and get them if they don’t get over their homesickness. If you feel that you need to be more active once your child is at camp, send letters and emails to let them know you are thinking of them. Rather than saying you miss them, focus on your excitement to hear all about their camp experience, their adventures and their new friends. Encourage them to try new things, smile and enjoy their time at camp.
For most children, homesickness is just a temporary feeling. Rest assured that most children are able to overcome their homesickness in just a few days. At Pali, our trained counselors are on hand 24/7 to ensure your child’s transition from home to camp goes as smoothly as possible. Visit the Pali Blog for more tips on preparing your child to have the best summer camp experience.