In today’s world, parents are more involved with their kids’ lives than ever before. Not only does technology let parents know where kids are at any time, but kids are used to always having a parent nearby.
Going to sleepaway camp can present a huge adjustment for kids of all ages, but there are things you can do to help kids feel safe, happy and able to focus on having a good time. Here are a few ways you can help homesick campers.
The best thing you can do to mitigate homesickness is to build up children’s social structure. During the day when kids are busy with activities, they’ll likely be distracted and having fun. But when it comes to their routines – meals and bedtime, especially – homesickness can start to creep in. That’s when it’s vitally important to focus on the connections being made at camp with the other campers and their counselors.
According to the American Camp Association, almost every kid (97% of them!) will experience some homesickness at sleepaway camp. Simply talking about this openly can help those kids feel less alone and open opportunities for bonding with their bunkmates. Going deeper than saying “that’s okay, everyone feels this way” but truly empathizing with the camper will help them validate their feelings and be able to move past them.
Write it Out
Provide your campers with journals they can use to document their experiences at camp. They’ll be able to let out their feelings of sadness, but also note all the great things they’ve achieved. Periodically, provide the opportunity for campers to write letters home to their parents.
There’s a good chance that in addition to wanting to tell their parents they miss them, they’ll also want to show off all the activities they’ve taken part in. By the end, the camper may be able to reframe the experience that while they’re sad, it’s also worth it and they’re proud of being able to do it.
Schedule Phone Calls
While grandparents may remember going off to camp and not hearing from their families for weeks, that’s far from the case today. There’s no need to deny the use of phone calls to help a kid make it through happily.
Your camp management software should include the ability to schedule phone calls. You’ll set up blocks of times that you want calls to be available, and parents will sign up for the time that works for their schedule. It’s easier than ever to connect kids to parents – and know when the next call is coming to look forward to. With CampSite’s various add-on communication modules, like our phone call scheduling, and parent-camper email communication modules, it makes it so easy to help campers keep in touch with loved ones!
Of course, the top way to help keep homesickness from growing is through distraction. Camp provides kids with lots of opportunities they won’t have at home. And, the more they do, the less they’ll be thinking about home.
Keep an eye out for kids that aren’t participating, or are spending a lot of time alone. Have counselors spend a little one-on-one time with them finding out what kinds of activities they enjoy, and pushing them to get involved. Sometimes kids just need a little individual attention to get out of their funk and get back to making the most out of their time at camp.
Going to sleepaway camp can be one of the toughest experiences a child has faced to this point. But, every night away they’re building their resilience and courage, and learning more about themselves as an individual. It’s vital that counselors and directors empathize with the feelings of campers while also giving them distractions and outlets for their feelings. By the end, they’ll be proud of what they accomplished away from home.