Missing Home

Missing home is natural and may strike any age, but it is generally not a problem and can be overcome. Our approach is to keep our campers so engaged in fun activities that they forget about their worries and missing home. During staff training, we conduct several sessions and specific role-playing exercises with the guidance of psychologists and other trained professionals. These sessions equip our leaders with the tools they need to support campers effectively.

We take the well-being of campers who are missing home seriously, and our experience indicates that phone calls to or from family members are not the solution. If your camper does become homesick and it is serious or detrimental to your child’s camp experience, rest assured that we will contact you. Campers enjoy receiving messages from home, and we encourage you to be positive and upbeat in the letters you send to camp. These letters can help them feel connected and supported.

4 Predictors for Missing Home (When Kids Miss Home from Dr. Chris Thurber)

There are a variety of factors that predict whether a camper will miss home including the camper’s experience, personality, family, and attitude.

  1. Experience Factor: campers are more likely to miss home if they are young, have little previous separation experience, and no previous experience at camp.
  2. Personality Factor: campers are more likely to miss home if they perceive low control over their emotions, are anxious or depressed before camp, or are unsure if their caregivers will give them love when needed.
  3. Family Factors: campers are more likely to miss home if they felt forced to come to camp, if a parent expressed doubt or anxiety about their child coming to camp, there is something about home that makes them worried (moving, divorce, sick dog), or if the parents say, “If you’re homesick, I will come get you.”
  4. Attitude Factors: campers are more likely to miss home if they have low expectations of camp, if they believe their feelings of missing home will be strong, or they have a negative first impression of camp.
Vespers GIrls

Prior to Camp: A great time at camp starts at home...

More than 95% of all campers report missing home on at least one day of their camp stay. It is normal! The following are ways you can help with the factors that can predict whether your camper will miss home.

  1. Schedule times for your camper to stay the night at a family member or friend’s house prior to their stay at camp. This helps build the child’s confidence and feel successful, which can help them during the longer duration of camp.
  2. Emphasize that your child is being provided with a great opportunity to go to camp rather than being "sent" to camp.
  3. Heighten your child’s excitement by enthusiastically talking about Geneva Glen’s special events or your own adventures you had as a child. Speak positively about how exciting it was for you to be away from home, and how the time flew by!
  4. Be realistic! Mention some of the not-so-glamorous realities of rustic outdoor living: sharing personal space with others, hikes to the bathroom, showers every other day, and communal meals.
  5. Let your camper know the following:
    • When they will arrive at Geneva Glen and when they will head back home. Sometimes providing a paper calendar can help while they are at camp.
    • Their counselors will have a weekly schedule posted in the cabin/dorm and other places around camp.
    • They may write home often so be sure to include writing materials and stamps in their luggage.
    • Counselors are the campers’ friends and are there to always help and support them.
    • You can always wake up a counselor at night if you need something or cannot sleep.
    • All campers get to go on an overnight campout!
  6. Discuss with your camper how they may miss home, especially if it’s the first time away. Let your camper know that missing home is natural, and everyone experiences it at some time (adults too!). Once campers understand this, they may accept it with less anxiety and nervousness and be able to adjust quickly to camp life.
  7. Keep comments about camp upbeat. Consider telling your children that you are excited that they get to go to camp – you wish you could go, too! Avoid comments such as, “I’m going to miss you terribly” and “If you don’t like camp, you can come home,” that will work against allowing your camper to adjust to the idea of going away to camp.
  8. Sending a family snapshot can provide reassurance that home is waiting for them.
  9. Try to send a letter the Friday before camp Check-In so your child gets a letter the first day.

Camper Drop-Off and During Camp

  • During Check-In, it is important to say goodbye casually and avoid lingering, clinging, or crying.
  • When writing to your child, keep your messages positive and encouraging. Avoid sharing news that may make them feel sad or depressed. If your child writes home expressing that they are missing home, remember that it is common for campers to feel this way initially.
  • Telephone calls are NOT a cure for campers missing home! In fact, they may even exacerbate feelings of isolation. We have protocols in place to address persistent and elevated cases, including interventions and potential calls home from the administrative staff if necessary.
  • At Geneva Glen, we strive to create memorable camp experiences for all campers. Rest assured that most campers adapt quickly to camp life. When a camper continues to struggle with missing home, we take it seriously and invite parents/guardians to partner with us in recognizing symptoms and providing support. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to the camp administration.

    For additional information and resources on missing home and homesickness, we recommend visiting the American Camp Association's website at http://www.acacamps.org

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    Geneva Glen Camp, Inc is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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