Preparing Your Child for A First Time Camp Experience

Camp Yoetzet (Camp Mom/Parent Liaison) Dr. Susan Gold adapted this information to help prepare families sending kids to camp.

Camp provides a wonderful opportunity for children to gain
independence.   Being away from home, particularly for the
first time, can be exciting and, sometimes, a little anxiety provoking.  Homesickness is a normal, predictable
response to being away from home and is not limited to younger or first time
campers.  Homesickness typically means
that there are lots of things about home that campers love and miss.  That being said, however, homesickness can be
uncomfortable and parents should know that there are ways to prepare their
campers for camp that can reduce the chance that they will feel homesick.

Managing and minimizing homesickness:

1.        Talk with your child
about the upcoming time apart from you. 
Sometimes parents think that if they talk about homesickness, it will
cause their child to feel homesick.  Actually,
the opposite is true.  Talking a little
bit about missing home and being prepared for it can help your child feel
better.  You can honestly tell your child
that almost everyone misses something from home when they are away, and the
good news is that there are lots of things that they can do if they feel
bothered by homesickness.

2.       Prepare your child by discussing strategies to use should he or
she feel homesick.  Encourage your child
to talk to their counselors, friends, or adults in camp to help feel
better.  Most importantly, specifically encourage
your child to make new friends and participate in activities to both to help
distract them from their homesick feelings and because having fun will help them
feel better. 

3.       Although it may be tempting, avoid making a “pick-up deal.”   Sometimes parents feel that if they promise,
“if you don’t like it, I’ll come and pick you up” they are showing concern for
their child.  This type of bargain
actually increases the likelihood that the child will feel homesick.  It also gives the child the impression that
the parent has little confidence in the child’s ability to cope and the parent
must come to rescue them. 

4.       Work together with your child to learn about camp.  Use the website to look at pictures of the
different activities at camp, and read our blogs about the adventures campers
are having.  Being familiar with camp and
our programs will help your camper feel more comfortable when they arrive.

5.       Keep it positive!  Avoid
expressing whatever anxieties or ambivalent feelings you may have about your
child’s time away from home. 

6.       Help your child keep in touch and still feel connected to you by
providing them with paper, envelopes, stamps and address, or better yet, address



from Thurber CA,Walton EA.  Preventing
and treating homesickness.  Child and
Adolescent Psy Clin of North America 2007, 843-858.

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