Gearing up for Camp – 2013

Camp season is almost here and we are getting ready for another wonderful and memorable summer at Camp Iroquois Springs.  Our campers are starting to gather their camp clothes and supplies and are feeling just as excited as we are for the summer to begin.  Along with this excitement may also be some feelings of anticipated homesickness.  Even campers that are truly looking forward to camp, be it their first or fifth summer, may experience some feelings of homesickness.  Michael Thompson, Ph.D. specializing in children and families, says that homesickness is completely normal.  “Ninety-five percent of children experience at least a bit of homesick feelings when they are away from their parents at summer camp”.  The good news is that these feelings do not stop the majority of campers from experiencing a wonderful summer at camp.  Campers know that their feelings come from a place of loving their family, and that in itself is a great comfort.
If your camper is starting to express some concerns about missing you and the comforts of home, here are some ways to help prepare him or her (and yourself) for opening day.
Be positive:  Let your child know how much fun he or she is going to have, trying new activities and meeting new friends.  Discuss the different camp activities, and encourage your child to get involved in all that camp has to offer. Stay away from telling them how much you will miss them or how the summer won’t be the same without them.
Review the Day:  Discuss what a typical day at camp looks like.  The camp day may be very different from the routine at home, so go over things like wake-up, lights out, meals, etc…  Take a look at the camp brochure and DVD and familiarize your camper with the camp schedule.  Having an idea of what to expect creates a feeling of comfort even before camp begins.
Attend New Family Orientation:  If possible, attend what your camp offers for new families.  It’s a great opportunity to meet key staff and get familiar with the camp grounds and facilities.  Campers will have a chance to see the camp and meet other new campers in their division.
Encourage Reaching Out:  Let your camper know that feelings of homesickness are normal, and that there are plenty of camp staff they can talk to if they are feeling upset.  Reassure them that counselors are there to help them get through the transition from home to camp.  Campers can also reach out to other campers for support, as they are most likely not alone in missing home.
Speak with Confidence:  Let your child know that you believe in them and that they will do great at camp.  Empower them to believe in themselves and trust that in time they will feel less homesick and have a wonderful summer.  Children who work through feelings of homesickness and stick it through will feel proud of themselves and feel capable to take on other new challenges.
Keep the Letters Coming:  Send a letter (or email) to your camper even before camp begins.  This way, they will have mail waiting for them when they first arrive, making the transition to camp a bit easier.  Keep the letters coming all summer long, and encourage your camper to write home as well.  Pack your camper with stationary and addressed stamped envelopes so they could easily send out letters to family and friends.
Bring a Piece of Home:  Have your child pack a special reminder from home, like a favorite stuffed animal or pillow to put on their bed.  Small comforts of home go a long way.  Family photos are also a great way to feel connected to loved ones.
Schedule a Sleepover:  If your child has never slept outside of the house, have them sleep at a friend’s house before camp begins. This will give them some idea of what it is like to be away from home.
Practice Independence:  If going to camp is new to your child, practice skills like showering, brushing teeth, getting dressed and making their bed, on their own.  Being able to take care of these basic needs independently will help your child feel more capable and confident.
These suggestions may not take away all feelings of homesickness, but will definitely better prepare your child for the camp experience and help them have an easier transition to the world of camp.  And don’t be surprised when the summer is over and they express feeling “homesick” for their family and friends at camp!