Periodically I like to write about homesickness at camp, though in all truth I do so more out of concerns and fears from parents than because of an actual high incidence of homesickness at camp.
In fact, homesickness is rare at camp, and when it happens, it’s usually more a fleeting feeling than one that sticks around for long.
That said, I of course want to address parent fears and concerns because as a long-time camper/counselor/camp director, but mostly as a parent, I can completely identify with wondering what my child would experience — and how she would be responded to — if strong emotions, including homesickness, arose.
Before I go on, I’d like to point you to the best resources of all for delving into the issue of homesickness more.
If worrying over homesickness is truly overwhelming you, these resources will offer the most thorough examination of the issue in the context of camp life at Camp Alleghany for Girls.
You’ll want to:
- Read the Parent Handbook section on Homesickness.
- Read the Parent Handbook section on Mail (both sending letters to and receiving letters from your camper).
- Read our Blog on The Dreaded Homesickness Letter
- Read our Blog on Two Homesick 2013 Campers Register Early for 2014
All told, these resources and explorations should help contextualize homesickness for you, hopefully ratcheting down any worry and making you feel more confident about sending your daughter to camp.
If you remain interested in the topic after reviewing our notes, there’s a book by Dr. Michael Thompson called Homesick and Happy that you might want to read.
Every camper counts
The most important two things to keep in mind from my experience are that, while homesickness sometimes happens, your child is not alone.
The best way you can prepare her for the possibility is to take your cues from her. While YOU should never plant the idea of homesickness in her head before camp by saying something like, “What if you get homesick?” nor during camp in a letter from home asking, “Are you homesick?” you can and should reassure HER if she says, “What if I get homesick?” Or if in a letter she says, “I miss you, I’m homesick.”
In that case, you can remind her that her tent counselor most of all — but all staff generally speaking — are there for her. She need only express her concern and someone will listen, take her seriously, and help her move through it.
The other thing to keep in mind is that we are all well trained for this eventuality. Counselors know the right way to both affirm your camper’s feelings while also keeping her connected to the flow and day-to-day life of camp.
It’s only been extremely rarely that homesickness has risen to the level where the child simply had to go home. In the vast majority of cases, homesickness is actually a rather fleeting emotion, soon soothed by the activity and opportunities around her!
I’d also like to point you to our Mini Camp Podcast on the subject, where we touch on homesickness as part of an overall look at Mini Camp.
One thing we have in spades at camp is a staff full of heart, all of whom are tuned in to your daughters, ready with hugs, and, in our low staff-to-camper ratio, there’s always someone on hand to meet camper needs.
Still, if you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me.
And if you want to learn more about the benefits of Mini Camp, please download my FREE e-book, “3 Reasons to Begin Your Child’s Sleepaway Summer Camp Journey Early.”
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls