May has arrived with beautiful weather and sunshine here at Miniwanca, and with it comes the reminder that summer camp 2018 begins in less than 2 months. At Miniwanca we have been busily planning and preparing for summer 2018 since the end of summer 2017, but now that May has begun it all feels so close! Like us, you may be realizing that camp is not far away now and you may be looking for a few tips on getting ready for summer. I am frequently asked about homesickness at camp, so here are:
7 Do’s and 1 Don’t for Preventing Homesickness
It is natural for most campers to experience a degree of homesickness, particularly if it is their first time away from home. It is not uncommon for parents to receive a homesick letter, only to call camp and learn that homesick feelings have passed and the camper is now having fun.
Our summer staff superstars (a.k.a. your camper’s cabin leaders) plan the first 48 hours in great detail to help campers feel more comfortable at camp. Campers arriving at camp will quickly engage in games and ice breakers to help them meet new friends and feel more connected with their cabin.
Even with the efforts and support of your camper’s cabin leader and other Miniwanca staff, there are things you can do at home to start the process of preventing or minimizing homesickness.
How can I help to reduce or prevent homesickness?
1. Have the Conversation: Prior to camp, talk to your camper about camp, stressing that it may involve challenges that will help them to grow and gain new confidence. Mention homesickness and let them know it is normal to miss the familiarity of being home.
2. Practice at Home: Have younger campers practice managing their daily routine: getting ready for bed, starting the shower, getting dressed or organizing their belongings. Campers who feel more confident in these areas tend to have a smoother transition to camp.
3. Pack Together: Involve campers in the process of packing and preparing for camp. Nationally-known clinical psychologist Wendy Mogel writes, “A fourth grade teacher told me that she can predict which campers will be homesick on the annual four-day nature retreat. ‘The ones who can locate their flashlight, sweatshirt, and warm socks in their duffel bag are not homesick. The ones who can’t find their stuff are.’ She explained that this first group of campers have either packed their gear themselves or with a parent’s help. The second group, the homesick, has been packed for.” Working together ensures that campers will not forget to pack important items and also helps them feel more confident and prepared.
4. Help Them to Connect: Encourage your camper to talk with their leaders if they are starting to miss home. Our staff are trained in a variety of strategies that can help your camper feel more comfortable and get involved in camp!
5. Develop Strategies: Evening and bedtime are when homesickness often arises. Talk with your camper in advance about things that they can do to make bedtime easier. Some campers find having a quote, favorite memory, or counting sheep pre-planned to focus on very helpful.
6. Stay Connected: Write a few letters to your camper before camp begins and bring them to the office on Opening Day. Since it takes a few days for mail to arrive, this ensures your camper will have letters from home during the first few days of camp.
7. Use Positive and Encouraging Language: When writing letters, be sure to focus on what your camper is looking forward to doing at camp, encouraging them to achieve the goals they set with you, and encourage them to write you a letter telling you about the fun things they are doing at camp. Try to avoid topics that might make them miss home more.
Watch out! The most common mistake parents can make is the Pick-Up Deal. It’s normal for campers to ask, “What if I feel homesick?”. Please never say, “If you feel homesick, I’ll come and get you.” This conveys a message of doubt and pity that undermines a camper’s confidence and sense of independence. Pick-Up Deals become mental crutches and self-fulfilling prophecies for campers as soon as they arrive at camp. You can read more about strategies to help campers succeed at www.acacamps.org. Focus on encouraging your camper to enjoy this new experience. We will partner with you to help your camper adjust quickly and thrive during their time at Miniwanca.
By Hannah Patterson, Assistant Director