Thoughts on Homesickness
Homesickness is either a mild or severe form of anxiety,
which can sometimes occur until a child becomes adjusted to
the camp surroundings and social environment. It is a very
real and natural emotion that can occur in anyone, child or
adult, when they leave familiar people and places for a new
adventure. Going away to camp is an experience in separation
for parent and child. It is important that both are prepared
for it before check-in day. In
addition to the information provided here, check out Summer Camp Prep Tips.
How can we help
campers avoid homesickness?
First time campers will benefit from having gone on other
less threatening experiences away from home such as overnights
with grandparents and friends or attending a day camp.
Involving your child in as many decisions as possible about
camp beforehand can also help. Pack the child's bags with
familiar clothing and special mementos. A favorite stuffed
animal can be very comforting, even for children who seem to
be beyond that phase. It can provide a treasured
reminder of home.
Talk to your child about the kinds of fun they will have
exploring new camp activities and meeting new friends.
Families should speak openly about the possibility of
homesickness. Discuss what camp will be like well before your
child leaves home and discuss any concerns. Don't tell
children up front that you will "rescue" them if
they don't like camp right away since this tactic generally
guarantees that a homesick child will not last. Most children
are able to deal with their homesick feelings as they become
comfortable with their surroundings. Also, for some children
overcoming homesickness can be a milestone in their
One suggestion is to send an encouraging letter that will
be waiting for them when they arrive at camp. Camp Fire Boys
and Girls conducted a study which concluded that a written
message letting kids know they’re important, loved, and
appreciated can make a lasting impact on their lives. Letters
should not include any bad news or stories about what the
family is doing that may leave the child feeling left out.
Also, don't dwell on how much you, the pet, or siblings miss
them. We don’t want campers to forget about home, we just
don’t want them to dwell on home to the exclusion of their
current camp experience.
Check-in day can be the most exciting yet most difficult
for both parents and children. On check-in day, try not to
dwell on the subject of homesickness prior to your arrival at
camp. Direct your child towards thinking of the positive
things they will be involved in during their stay. After
checking in help them move their gear into their cabin and
assist them in organizing their space, meeting their cabin
leaders and a few other cabin mates. Try not to linger too
long. Once they are settled, it is time to say goodbye. Give
words of encouragement, say your good-byes, and leave them to
their experience. Some children will jump enthusiastically
into the fray. Some will ease in slowly. Some will attempt to
make you feel guilty for "abandoning" them. It is
all normal behavior. Soon they will be engaged in exciting
Once the camp program is underway, we try to keep campers
so busy that they will have little time to reflect on
homesickness. Most child specialists agree that telephone
calls to or from home make homesickness much worse or
stimulate it in children who are not experiencing
homesickness. Because of this, we do not allow campers to call
home except in cases of severe, persistent homesickness. Our
approach is to get them involved and engaged as much as
possible in what is happening around them. However, you may
call at any time to speak with the camp coordinator and staff
about how your son or daughter is doing. The staff may have to
call you back after checking on them, but they will give you
an honest appraisal of how they are getting along.
Most children overcome homesickness and adjust to camp
within a day or two in the vast majority of cases. At camp,
children learn to problem-solve, make social adjustments to
new and different people, learn responsibility, and gain new
skills to increase their self-esteem. The goal of camp is to
provide a safe, fun, and educational experience for children,
while assisting their positive growth and development. It
would be unfortunate to have a child miss out on developing
these life skills because of an early bout of homesickness.
With support and encouragement, most children adjust very
quickly to their new camp environment.
For in-depth information on homesickness, read Homesick
and Happy by child psychologist Michael Thompson available
at booksellers such as Amazon.com.