As parents, you play a critical role and can support your children even before they arrive at camp, as well as during their stay. Please consider the following suggestions and tips for a “homesick free” camping experience.
- Emphasize that your child is being provided a great opportunity to go to camp rather than being “sent” to camp.
- Heighten your child’s enthusiasm by enthusiastically talking about Geneva Glen’s special events or your own adventures as a camper. Speak positively about how exciting it was for you to be away from mom and dad, and how the time flew by!
- Be realistic! Mention some of the not-so-glamorous realities of rustic outdoor living: spiders in the dorm, uphill hikes to the bathroom, showers every other day and food at mealtime that is not always exactly what they want.
- Let your camper know:
- When they will arrive at Geneva Glen and when they will head back home
- There is only one-half-hour from the wake-up bell to breakfast
- Bathrooms are not luxurious
- They may write home daily
- Counselors are the campers’ friends and may be nervous and excited, too
- All campers go on an overnight campout!
- Discuss homesickness with your camper, especially if it’s the first time away from home. Let your camper know that homesickness is natural and everyone experiences it at some time ( adults, too!) Once campers understand homesickness, they may accept it with less anxiety and be able to adjust quickly to camp life. Of course, it’s entirely possible that your camper may not even consider being homesick (be glad and rejoice)!
- Keep comments about camp upbeat. Comments such as, “I’m going to miss you terribly” and “If you don’t like camp, you can come home” work against allowing your camper to adjust to the idea of going away to camp. Consider telling your children that you’re excited that they get to go to camp – you wish you could go, too!
- Send a family snapshot along for reassurance that your child’s primary place is in your family ... and that he or she will be coming home soon.
- Write often and include positive statements such as “I bet you’re having a blast!” or “You’re lucky to be able to make a lot of new friends!” or “Be sure to say hello to that old paint horse we saw!” or “I wish I got to have a rest hour every day!” Ask your child to tell you about fun activities such as the pool, horseback riding, campfires and new friends. Avoid sharing news from home that will make your child sad or depressed.
- Try to send a postcard the Friday before camp Check-in – that way your child gets a letter the first day!
- Telephone calls are NOT a cure for homesickness – in fact, they almost always have the opposite effect. If your camper hears your voice, he or she may feel further isolated from camp surroundings. If a case of homesickness persists and becomes serious, we will intervene and call home to discuss the situation. Out-of-state campers who travel to camp with a cellphone are required to give the phone to the counselor, who will store it in the camp safe. Cellphones can cause havoc with a homesick camper and they should be left at home.
You may find additional information and resources, as well as numerous articles and links, on the American Camp Association’s web site. We recommend it! The address is http://www.acacamps.org – click on “search” and type in “homesickness.”