Appendix B. Emotional Preparation (Managing Homesickness)

Beyond physically preparing children for camp, parents will also want to help them prepare emotionally, especially for long-term or overnight camp. Parents should talk to their kids about the possibility of homesickness before they leave. This doesn't need to be a long conversation, but it should cover the basics. Parents should explain what homesickness is, talk about how normal it is, and brainstorm some ways their kids can cope with it. They might suggest writing a letter home, looking at their family picture album, talking to a camp counselor, or trying out new activities which might be fun and distract them from their emotions. If parents have had the opportunity to talk with camp staff before their children arrive at camp, they may be able to point out supportive staff members at the camp such as the nurse, head counselor, bunk leader, or other staff who can be sought out if children find themselves having a rough time.

Parents themselves may feel worried or apprehensive about their children going away to overnight camp for the first time. However, it's important that they try their best to not communicate this worry to their children so as not to worry them unnecessarily. Instead, worried parents should do their best to act and speak in an upbeat confident manner, extolling the real benefits of the camp experience for children, making clear their expectation that children will have a good time, and expressing their confidence in children's independence and ability to handle homesickness. By way of reinforcing this positive message, parents can mail their children a supportive letter at their camp address prior to their leaving for camp so that it is there when they arrive.

Parents should send letters and care packages containing approved items throughout children's stay at an overnight camp. Hopefully, kids will write back talking about all the new and exciting things they're doing. Often, children will write home sad letters when they're feeling homesick, which deeply worry their loving parents at home when received. However, parents who receive such a letter should realize that several days have passed since the letter was written, and the overwhelming likelihood is that the child's moment of sadness has already passed. Truly worried parents can always call camp staff to inquire as to how their children are coping. Most of the time, children's homesickness at camp is a passing thing. However, there are occasions when it becomes severe and interferes with a child's ability to enjoy camp. In such cases, the camp will generally call the parents to discuss the situation. Generally, the goal would be to find a way for the child to succeed at camp, despite some degree of homesickness. However, there will be times when it is appropriate for parents to come pick their child up because he or she is, in hindsight, simply not yet ready for the camp experience.

Parents of children attending day camp should make a point of discussing children's daily experiences every evening. Hopefully, these daily discussions will be full of stories about fun things children have done and fun friends they have met. However, may also describe problems they are experiencing with camp activities, staff, or peers. In such cases, parents should work with children to help them problem-solve difficult situations, just as they would for school. Parents who suspect their children are experiencing serious problems should contact appropriate camp staff to discuss their concerns.