If your child is going to sleep-away camp for the first time, they may experiences feelings of homesickness, a form of separation anxiety. 95% of all kids experience it. The good news is that homesickness is not only typical, it is treatable and preventable.
Addressing Feelings of Homesickness
Here are a few ideas for addressing and even preventing homesickness
when a youngster goes off to summer camp for the first time.
the child in the decision. Whenever a youngster is involved in the
decision-making process, they will have increased feelings of control
about being away from home. When children feel forced, homesick feelings
the child that homesickness is typical. Children often feel they are
the only ones to experience these feelings. It can be a big relief for
them to know this is not the case.
the youngster skills and hope. Provide them with the tools that will
help them if they feel homesick while away. Encourage them not to
isolate, but to stay active and be with others, and to talk it out with
practice times away. These could include one-night sleepovers with
friends or a trip to Grandma’s. When they return, encourage them to talk
about what coping strategies worked best if they became homesick.
with them on letter writing. Make it really easy for them to stay in
touch. Supply them with paper, pens and plenty of pre-stamped,
a letter ahead. Mail a letter to your child before she even goes to
camp. That way, when she arrives, it will be a wonderful surprise and a
piece of love from home.
“tours” of the camp. Use websites, pamphlets and other materials to
help familiarize your child with the camp. Have them speak with camp
staff or alumni of the camp. Once they have met someone from the camp, a
familiar face can go a long way in helping them feel safe and
Encourage friendships. Suggest that your child actively make new friendships and seek the support of trusted grownups.
yourself. Avoid making anxious or ambivalent statements to your child
about the separation from them. Giving children something to worry about
will only increase thoughts of home. Express enthusiasm, confidence and
optimism about the new experience. If YOU are anxious, your child will
sense it and become anxious, also. Even if you are concerned, act as if
you are not!
Use a wall calendar. Practice perspective on the time away by marking fun activities on a large calendar.
DON’T Make the “Pick-up Deal”;
Although you might be tempted, NEVER make the “Pick-up Deal,” an
offer to pick the child up at camp and bring them home if things don’t
go well. Making this deal will reduce dramatically the chances of your
child’s success at summer camp. This can convey to your child that you
have little confidence in their ability to copy with a typical
away-from-home feeling, and that the only solution is for you to rescue
them. This deal can also plant the seed that your child will not like
camp or that there might be something to be afraid of, suggesting that
their only solution is to avoid or escape. Additionally, the “deal”
undermines the surrogate caregivers (camp staff) who are trying to help
your child cope with feelings of homesickness.
Just remember; when you say good-bye to your child on the camp bus,
when you are sending them off with your love, support and belief in
them, they will do just fine.
And so will you!
Dr. Frank Sileo
is a child and adolescent psychologist and the Executive Director of
The Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, New Jersey. He is
the author of the children’s book, Bug Bites and Campfires: A Story for Kids About Homesickness, a story about a youngster going off to summer camp for the first time.
Information taken from Just Between Friends email that was sent to me.