In my last blog post, I wrote about how to know if your child is ready for overnight camp. Ready or not, many campers will experience homesickness, even if they’ve been to camp before. This usually happens in the first day or so, and in most cases it dissipates by the third day. We work very hard to address ways to handle homesickness during staff training. While each case is different in some ways, they usually follow certain patterns that we see repeatedly. The good news is that most cases are short lived, and kids come out feeling proud of themselves for getting through it.
With our structured schedule, campers stay pretty busy at Maine Arts Camp, which is a great way to ward off homesickness. It usually affects kids more during down times like rest hour or bedtime. We recommend for parents to forewarn their children that they might feel homesick at camp and let them know it’s perfectly normal. Discussing it doesn’t make it happen, and if you avoid the discussion, you miss the opportunity to give your child your vote of confidence. Remind her of other challenging situations she has faced in the past, and talk about some coping skills that proved to be useful. Tell her you can’t wait to hear about all her camp experiences when she gets home. Also, let her choose some items from home that might be comforting to bring to camp. This could be a stuffed animal, photos of the family, or other meaningful objects.
As tempting as it might be, it is crucial not to tell your child you’ll come get her if she’s homesick. That shows a lack of confidence in her coping abilities, and she needs your support. Instead, encourage your child to turn to his or her counselors at camp for emotional support. Our counselors can usually tell if a child is homesick or upset, but it’s so much easier if a camper doesn’t feel the need to keep those emotions all bottled up inside. Often times homesickness needs to run it’s course, which we find to be up to about three days in standard cases. As I mentioned, it usually happens in waves that occur during down times, so the key is to keep those campers focused on all the wonderful activities they have to look forward to and help them make friends. For some campers it helps to make a calendar with specific activities to look forward to each day. After a few days, they realize the time is flying, and they still have so much they want to do at camp.
If your child is still pretty homesick after three days, we will call you to let you know. We do this for a several reasons: 1) so you won’t be upset if you get a letter from your child saying he or she is homesick; 2) to ask your advice for the best ways to work with your child; and 3) to ask you to write encouraging emails or letters to your child. We might also tell your child we’ve spoken to you, and perhaps relay a supportive message from you. At that point, we’ll continue to keep in touch with you to let you know how your child is doing. And of course, our counselors will be working extra hard to help your child conquer homesickness and become engrossed in all the fun of camp!
If you have concerns about homesickness, or want to discuss the possibility of sending your child to Maine Arts Camp, please feel free to call us at (561) 865-4330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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