Stapleton Pediatrics Blog

Sleep-away Camp: Tips for Homesickness

by Noriko Rothberg, CPNP

It’s officially summer, and for many families that means sending their children to sleep-away camps. There are so many benefits to camp: it fosters independence, kids create life-long relationships, no screens and technology, new experiences, and many, many other positives. However, another very common aspect of sleep-away camp is homesickness. The American Camp Association reports that nearly 96 percent of children who attended sleep-away camp for two or more weeks experienced some form of homesickness. Clearly this is a common issue. Here are five ways to help your child – and you – navigate homesickness during camp.

1) Have Practice Runs
Before camp begins, encourage your child to spend time away from home while still being close to home. Sleepovers at grandparents’ homes and with friends are great testing grounds for being away from mom and dad. While one night is a good start, try to build up to a long weekend so your child can get a sense of what camp might be like.

2) Communicate with and Visit Camp
Again, before you send your child to camp, let the camp director know that your child might be homesick. Ask the director for specifics on what coping methods they use, and share this information with your child. If possible, try to visit the camp prior to the beginning of the session. Show your child areas like the bunks and dining hall so they will be familiar.

3) Communication with Camper
One of the best parts about sleep-away camp is that children have the chance to write letters – a fading art thanks to emails and texting! Send plenty of paper, pens, pre-addressed and stamped envelopes with your child to camp, and make sure you write often as well. Many camps also will allow you to send emails that are printed off and given to your child. Check your camp’s policy, and let your child know that you will be in frequent contact.

4) What NOT to Say (And what you should say)
Most experts will advise you to never tell children that you will pick them up if they are homesick. These “pick-up deals” prevent the child from putting forth the effort to cope with homesickness and could undermine the camp’s protocols.
Instead, remind your child that it is not forever, that they are in a safe place, that you will write often, and that you know they can do this. If you show children that you believe in them and have confidence that they will not only survive, but also thrive at camp, they will likely begin to believe it as well.

5) Trust Your Instincts
With all of this being said, you know your child best. If your child is simply not adjusting to camp life, is truly miserable, and you and the camp have exhausted all coping strategies, it is understandable for a child to come home after a reasonable amount of time and effort.
I believe a certain amount of homesickness is actually a positive. Just think of the growth opportunity it presents. If your child can successfully overcome feelings of anxiety and fear while away from you, it will build confidence and benefit him/her later in life. As always, contact us with any questions or concerns, and have a great summer!
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Posted: 6/24/2015 9:29:24 AM by | with 0 comments
Filed under: camp, denver, homesickness, pediatrician, pediatrics, summer

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