When your child is away at summer camp, homesickness can often set in, especially if it’s their first time being separated from the familiar comforts of home. The summer camp blues are perfectly normal; in fact, the American Psychological Association reports that roughly 90% of kids who spend time away from home experience some form of sad feelings during their hiatus. As a parent, this can definitely pull at your heartstrings, so what can you do to provide some sort of comfort for your child while they’re away? Below are some tips to help ease your child’s homesickness, so that they (and you) can have some peace of mind during their summer camp excursion.
1. Let your child know that homesickness is normal.
One of the reasons why homesickness can be such a heavy weight on a child’s mind is because they might feel like it’s something abnormal or unusual. You can defuse this tendency right off the bat by clearly explaining to your child that homesickness is quite normal. Let them know that their feelings of sadness or anxiety are nothing out of the ordinary, because let’s face it–most kids love their home environment and it’s not easy to break away from it! Ideally, you should have this discussion before they leave for camp, but even if you missed that opportunity, you can always reassure them while they’re there.
2. Empathize with their feelings, but don’t adopt them as your own.
One sure way to increase your child’s level of anxiety or stress is to be dismissive of their feelings. They need to know that you understand what they’re going through, so take some time to share an experience from your past where you felt homesick or lonely (we all have one). Be willing to empathize with how they feel, but be mindful not to adopt those feelings as your own; it does no good for both of you to be a bundle of nerves. Exhibit a calm strength (even if your stomach is in knots), and project a sense of confidence in your child’s ability to rise to the occasion.
3. Avoid communicating sadness about your child being away from home.
When your child is away from the nest, it can be just as hard on you as it is on them. Avoid making things worse by talking about how much you’re going to miss your child, or any other expressions of sadness that would make your child feel as if the separation is a negative thing.
4. Give your child some action steps to help them deal with homesickness.
Make a list of things they can do to help them feel better if they get homesick. This can include engaging in certain camp activities, finding a creative outlet (e.g., drawing, coloring, playing an instrument, etc.), talking to a camp counselor, etc. Basically anything that can keep their mind occupied will be a good thing.
5. Write them encouraging letters.
If your child’s going to a sleep-away camp, send frequent letters to them (send one a couple days before they even leave to get there on their first day), and include encouraging messages that emphasize how proud you are of them for taking this big step. If possible, recruit some other family members (grandparents are great for this) to send letters as well. This will give your child a much-needed boost of confidence when they remember that they have a loving family out there cheering them on.
As unnerving as it can be, summer camp is ultimately designed to be a positive experience for your child that can help them develop a sense of independence and self-confidence. Use the tips outlined above to help keep those homesick feelings at bay and enhance their summer camp experience.