Many campers experience homesickness in some way. It is healthy to feel a certain degree of homesickness because it means that your child is attached to you – this is a very good thing! But we also want our campers to have fun and enjoy the full camp experience. Here are a few things parents can do to set their children up for success leading up to camp.
Preparing your child for camp
- Involve your child in the decision about camp. While a camp experience is wonderful for most kids, it is not for everyone.
- If, after your best efforts, your child says “I don’t want to go camping” you might want to look at an alternative for the upcoming summer. Maybe when his or her friends report back on their camp experiences, he or she will want to be a camper next year.
- Have your child experience success in another type of overnight stay away from you – like a sleepover – prior to going to camp.
- Never tell a child he or she can leave early if he or she doesn’t like camp, as it sets the camper up for failure and he or she will focus on the deal instead of the experience.
- Have your child attend camp with a friend if you think it might help the transition.
- Give information to your child’s counsellor beforehand about what works for your son or daughter.
- Don’t linger at camp too long on opening day. Staying too long just delays the transition to new surroundings and can add to your child’s anxiety level.
- Help your child understand the policy concerning phone calls (i.e. campers do not make calls home) prior to camp so he or she will not be expecting to hear from you.
How Homesickness is Handled at Camp
- The first person to handle homesickness is the counsellor.
- They will spend one-on-one time with the camper.
- They will find out what the camper likes to do and try to do it with them.
- They will set short-term goals for the camper to reach.
- Every effort will be made to have the camper make it through the first night since that is the most difficult time.
- Campers will not be allowed to call home.
- If the counsellor’s attempt fails to resolve the camper’s distress after a reasonable amount of time (30 to 60 minutes with no evidence that the child is being consoled):
- The camper will be brought to the head counsellor/program staff.
- They will continue to work with the camper and relieve the time pressure from the counsellor.
- If the camper continues to be upset and still wants to go home, then arrangements will be made to contact parents as they know their child best and will be able to advise camp staff on how to proceed.
- If parents are to be contacted, the following parameters will be followed:
- Camp staff will call the parents while the child is NOT present.
- Parents are to be fully briefed on the situation.
- Inquiries can be made about any home or medical situations that may be causing the homesickness.
- Parents are invited to leave their child a message if they want him or her to stay at camp but feel it best that they do not speak to their child.
- Parents are assured that the camp staff will do everything possible to help the child through the situation.
- At this point, the option to take the child home or leave him or her at camp remains with the parents.
- Parents must understand that a decision needs to be made quickly and with certainty.
- The parents should be assured that if the camper is to stay, the camp staff will call back once or twice during the week to inform the parents how the camper is doing.
- Staff must follow through with the above steps and contact parents to update them on the situation.
- If the camper continues to be inconsolable, then, in the interest of the homesick camper, the other campers and the well-being of the camp:
- The parents will be encouraged to pick up their son or daughter as soon as possible.
- There will be no going home and coming back to camp in fairness to other campers struggling with homesickness.
- Once a decision for the child to go home is made, that decision is final.
- If the parents pick up their child, the program staff will make the following arrangements:
- Parents will pick up the child in a location apart from the rest of the campers. Young children are easily influenced by the actions of others and may be tempted to go home if they see a cabin mate leaving early.
- The parents should sign out the camper at the office.
- The camper should be encouraged to try again next year. Letting them go home is not a punishment, but hopefully leaving them with some positive memories of being here and the belief it will get easier each time.
Please note: No refund will be given to campers going home early with homesickness.