Homesickness is natural and may strike any age, but it's generally not a problem. What works best is to keep our campers so busy having fun that they forget about their worries and "home." During staff orientation, we conduct several sessions and specific role-playing exercises with the guidance of psychologists and other trained professionals in an effort to provide our leaders with professional tools to use with homesick campers. We do not take homesickness lightly and our experience indicates that phone calls to or from family members are not a remedy. If your camper does become homesick and it is serious or detrimental to the child's camp experience, we will contact you. Campers enjoy receiving messages from home, and we encourage you to be positive and upbeat in your letters.
"Most campers will feel homesick at some point during their stay at camp but will be able to get through it!"
A great time at camp starts at home...
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 excitement 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: sharing personal space with others, 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 often
- 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. Consider telling your children that you're 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 work against allowing your camper to adjust to the idea of going away to camp.
- On Check-In, don't hang around too long - be casual about saying goodbye; don't cling and don't cry!
- 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 so 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 may intervene and call home to discuss the situation. Out-of-state campers who travel to camp with a cell phone are required to give the phone to the counselor who will store it in the camp safe. Cell phones can cause havoc with a homesick camper and they must be left at home.
Geneva Glen provides memorable camp experiences! We know that the vast majority of campers adapt quickly to the camp environment and we don't anticipate bouts of homesickness. We treat homesickness seriously, though, and we invite parents to partner with us in recognizing symptoms and avoiding preventable complications. Feel free to talk to the camp administration if you have any questions or concerns.
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 – search for "homesickness."