Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Great Tips to Help the Otherwise "Happy Camper" Deal with Homesickness


The thought of a sleepover with a best friend or a week away at summer camp is thrilling for most kids. The excitement over the fun that the child anticipates is enough to convince any parent that the child is ready. But often what happens when the child is away is the excitement gets overthrown by thoughts of wanting to go home to their own beds and the familiarity of their own family. Kids want stay overnight away from home to exercise some independence and have fun without their parents. Unfortunately in the case of missing home, it's a matter of wanting the safety and comfort of home they have come to depend on. This can be tough; parents often don't know what to do when their children call crying asking to come home and kids don't want to feel as if they failed to conquer such a rite of passage as the indomitable sleepover.

Here are some great proactive tips to help your otherwise "happy camper" deal with homesickness:
  • provide practice opportunities for your children to stay away from home by sleeping over at grandma's, or an Aunt's house and work up to staying at friend's place
  • The age when a child is ready to spend an overnight away from home or attend a residential camp varies. Make sure it's your child's idea first
  • Informing your child of what to expect when away from home can help lessen fears about the unknown and ward off any "surprises" that might make him/her feel uncomfortable and force the idea of wanting to return home; i.e. you will be required to take a swimming test; there is a communal shower and an outhouse, the milk will be from powder and taste watery; etc.
  • Transitional objects can help keep homesickness at bay...a favourite sleep toy, blanket, pictures of family...can give your child the comfort of home
  • Inform camp staff or parents of the child who is having the sleepover, of your child's fears and arm them with strategies that work for your child in terms of helping him/her self-soothe
  • Send letters or emails in advance so your camper will receive them during his/her camp stay. Try to keep your sentiments of missing them too much, to a minimum. You don't want to project your anxiety and fuel your child's emotions over missing you and home. Say things like "I know you are having fun and can't wait to hear all about your adventure"
  • Let your kids know that feeling homesick is common and natural. Give them strategies for dealing with those feelings like: talk to a friend or camp counsellor, participate in a game to stay busy, write in a journal or blog, create a collage of pictures of camp, write a letter/email home, replace thoughts of missing home with positive thoughts like upcoming events such as camp drama night or the canoe trip Friday
Allowing your children the independence to conquer their own fears about missing home often gives them a confidence boost that doesn't happen when parents rush in and rescue their children by bringing them home early. The best recipe for dealing with the camp blues or sleepover sadness is to empathise with your children and reassure them you know they can handle being away from home and have fun while doing it!

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