7 Ways to Prevent Homesickness at Sleepaway Camp

Sleepaway camps can be a great experience that helps kids build independence, social skills and a love of the outdoors. But for a kid who is homesick at summer camp, it can be a tough week to live through. But this shouldn't deter you or your child, says Gregg Parker, owner and director of Camp Waziyatah in Waterford, Maine. "Don’t let fear rule the day," he says. "You shouldn’t force your child into camp, but encourage them strongly so they don’t back out of something that will be wonderful and a great experience for them.” Learn how you can help your child make summer camp one to remember ... for all the right reasons!

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By Keren Perles

Whether your child has been begging to go to sleepover camp, or you’ve been trying to convince her to go, she may feel a longing for home once she’s there. But have no fear! “It is important to note that getting over homesickness is empowering for kids,” says Gregg Parker, owner and director of Camp Waziyatah in Waterford, Maine. “Some of our happiest campers started out homesick.” In fact, homesickness usually goes away within two or three days of arriving at camp, he says. While there’s no surefire solution for a kid who misses her mama, these seven tips may help you prevent homesickness altogether.

Be prepared.

Believe it or not, you can avoid homesickness before camp even begins. Encourage your budding camper to attend sleepovers at friends’ houses to get used to the idea of being away from you. Take her shopping for cool camping gear and test it out at home. Pack well, pack early, and make sure she understands how to take care of her daily routines in a different environment.

Be excited!

Pump your child up by looking through the camp’s brochures and seeing what fun activities await her. Give her books that paint sleepaway camp in a positive light, such as The Summer Camp Mystery (about the Boxcar Children) or Cam Jansen: The Summer Camp Mysteries. Nonfiction options include Lights Out!: Kids Talk About Summer Camp and Sleepaway: The Girls of Summer and the Camps They Love.

Get the scoop.

Do your research ahead of time to learn exactly what activities and foods your camper can expect, and forewarn the camp director of her needs. Whether she’s allergic to peanuts, afraid of horses, not a confident swimmer or a light sleeper, it’s your job to make sure her needs are taken into account.

Recruit a friend.

Talk to the parents of your kid's friends to see if you can find a camping buddy for your child to go with, especially if you’re concerned that she’ll have trouble making friends with fellow campers. A familiar face can help to smooth over the transition and give your child a sense of home. If all goes well this time, then next summer she can try going to camp solo.

Deliver comfort.

Send a care package with an encouraging note before camp begins that will arrive on the first or second day of camp. That way, you'll help ease her anxiety and get her experience off on the right foot. For many new campers, the first day or two can be the toughest to get through.

Commit to it.

Don’t make a deal with your child that you’ll pick her up early if she wants you to. “Kids must focus on the experience of camp,” Parker says. “Offering to let them call or come home if it doesn’t work out sends the wrong message. It makes kids focus on home rather than camp, which is the opposite of how to get quickly past any feelings of homesickness.” Instead, focus on the fun she’ll have to help ease anxiety in the days leading up to camp.

Stay positive.

Don’t write anything to your child that will make her feel like she is missing out by being away from home. Saying “We miss you so much,” “Wish you were here” or “Guess what you missed” can make your child long for home, rather than focusing on making friends and having fun. Your attitude toward summer camp will rub off on your child.

It’s completely natural for a first-time camper to have butterflies in her stomach leading up to camp—and as a parent, it can be hard to watch your child feel anxious. By avoiding temptation to scrap summer camp plans and focusing on getting your kid excited about the hands-on fun she’ll have, you’ll set her up for an adventure where she’ll make friends, learn new skills and build independence.

For more hands-on ways to get your kid pumped for her summer adventure, check out our outdoor activities and camp-themed worksheets.

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