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10 Ways To Ease Homesickness

Nearly 96 percent of campers who spent two or more weeks at overnight camp began their stays with some degree of homesickness, according to the American Camp Association (ACA). Usually it passes quickly, but in the meantime, here are ways to help prevent or cope with homesickness.

1. Choose the right camp. Know your child’s interests and choose a camp that caters to them. The more excited he is about camp, the less likely he is to miss home. It will make your child feel more important and invested if he is part of the decision-making process.If your child isn’t enjoying camp activities, it can make homesickness worse.

2. Plan together. Get the family involved in all aspects of the camp process, from choosing the camp to buying supplies to packing. Your child will feel reassured to know he is supported and is not alone in this adventure. Working together can boost excitement, and give your child, and you, a more positive outlook. “Families being ready for camp is as important as campers being ready for camp,” says Don Jennings, director at YMCA Camp Mason in Hardwick, NJ.

3. Make sure the staff is experienceced. When choosing a camp, get to know the staff and find out how prepared they are to handle homesickness. Todd Landrey, director of programming at Sixers Camps, says that properly trained staff will help children cope with homesickness.

4. Discuss what to expect. Going into camp blindly can cause confusion and bewilderment. Let your child know what her days at camp are likely to entail in as much detail as possible. Watch the camp’s DVD or look at its brochure together. Jennings suggests attending an open house before camp begins. This can reduce anxiety about what to expect and for many children, can create a sense of excitement about the adventure to come.

5. Practice sleeping away. According to the ACA, practice can stave off homesickness. Before camp begins, have your child spend a weekend at a friend’s or relative’s house to experience being away from home.

Expressing your anxiety about camp
can rub off on your child.

6. Pack a reminder. Clinical psychologist Christopher Thurber, PhD, suggests that kids bring a personal item to camp, such as a baseball card collection or a favorite doll. If they feel sad about being away, a familiar object can help connect them with home.

7. Stay strong. Expressing your anxiety about camp can rub off on your child, justifying and prolonging his being sad or upset. “Even ‘I hope you'll be okay’ or ‘what will I do without you’ can leave children worried that something bad might happen to them or their parents, and make them preoccupied with thoughts of home,” says the ACA.

8. Communicate. Your child should not feel isolated at camp, which can make homesickness worse. It feels better to know that someone cares and is listening. Writing letters back and forth can help your child express feelings and feel more connected to home. In The Summer Camp Handbook (Perspective Publishing, $16.66), Dr. Thurber writes, “Getting mail makes kids feel loved and remembered. Personal letters and postcards — whether from parents, friends or relatives — renew the connection with home.”

9. No pick-up policy. Do not offer to pick up your child if things go poorly at camp. Instead, help your child put camp’s relatively short time frame into perspective. Your child will feel a sense of accomplishment that she overcame the homesickness and completed camp.

10. Encourage friendships. While it is helpful for your child to stay in touch with you through letters and phone, there’s something special about making friends to share this adventure with. The skills your child learns staying in touch with you can keep summer friendships going once camp ends.

Kalima E. Thomas is a MetroKids intern and Temple University journalism student.

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