How do you handle homesickness?
It is one of the most common questions we get asked by new parents considering sending their son to sleep away camp for the first time. Helping a camper through a bout of homesickness at summer camp is one of the most important and amazing components of any summer camp counselor or camp directors job. By helping a camper discover the confidence and ability to express and redirect their emotions to overcome something tough like homesickness provides the campers with tools for the future.
When they leave for college for the first time they KNOW if they get homesick they will be able to handle it. When they travel for the first time-they KNOW what to do when they miss home. It is truly such a great confidence boost and life skill to establish. Not all campers get homesick. In fact - not many do at all! Camp Carolina is a camp with non-stop action and excitement which leaves little time to reflect on what is going on at home. Sure, they may MISS home at times (don’t we all?) but most campers will not get homesick. If you are concerned your son may experience homesickness there are a few things you can do as a parent to help them through this time of growth before their summer officially begins.
Before your son heads away to camp, have a few practice sleepovers with friends. Encourage your son to be independent and avoid texting/calling. When he gets home ask him about his adventures and tell him about yours. Avoid saying things like “I missed you so much, I was so lonely without you!”-this could potentially make your son feel guilty about being away from his parent. When packing and traveling to CCB for drop off-keep positive! You may be feeling nervous and anxious but try to keep these emotions in check and focus on the awesome time your son is going to have. Saying things like “Maybe we should wait until next year”, “Make sure you write to me every day or I will worry” etc will increase your sons own apprehension about going to camp. Avoid offering your son the classic summer camp early pick up deal. Saying something like “If you get homesick I will come get you straight away” can prevent some campers from fully immersing themselves into camp life as they are always considering the possibility of going home when things get a little tough or they have an evening where they miss home a little
The final goodbye is also key. We have a whole bunch of awesome activities open for the campers for this positive drop off purpose. After the cabin set up, infirmary check-in and office check in-avoid lingering! Ask your son what activity he wants to check out, head on over and then let him know it is time for you to leave. Leave your son with a positive and confident goodbye. Something along the lines of “Your going to have such a good time! Have a blast and I will see you in 3 weeks!” and a hug works well. And remember you can always call the camp office before, during or after your sons summer experience for advice, update or to provide feedback (or just to say hello!).
On our next blog we will discuss how to handle receiving a homesick letter from your son and communication with our parents regarding homesickness. We are excited to welcome your son to Camp Carolina for a summer of growth and awesome adventures!