John Sorbel also contributed to this article.
We believe that experiencing homesickness is actually one of the true benefits of an overnight summer camp stay. Homesickness is not a bad thing!
After all, being homesick means the camper is coming from a good home with loving parents, home comforts, phones, electronics, TV, favorite meals and snacks, routine and unstructured time. Who’s not going to miss that?
Let’s start at the decision to send your child to camp. Why are you giving your child this wonderful opportunity? Often, it’s to provide your child with an opportunity for growth and fun in a safe, caring environment.
Part of this growth, a big part, is providing your child the space for this growth to occur. How can a child expand their limits while being held on to so tightly? Children need to run, fall, get up and try again. Camp is not a perfect science. That’s actually what makes it such a great environment for learning. Sometimes every day is not as good as the day before! Sometimes friends fall out and then become friends again. Learning to live in a cabin with 30 different and diverse personalities is not easy, but it teaches the children incredibly useful life skills. Camp can be especially difficult for some children if it is their first time away from home.
TIP – Try a few sleep-overs before their first year at camp.
This is your most precious possession. You must show your child that you trust them to grow and that you trust the camp staff, as professionals, to look after their best interests. It is with a large dose of assumption on our part that you did research into choosing Hermann Sons Life Camp. You looked into the camp you chose for your child. You asked questions about the caliber of staff that will be looking after your child. You made sure the camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. You learned as much as possible about the programs it offers. You learned about the policies and procedures. You read all of the literature the camp has sent you… then you decided to send your child to us!
There are various levels to homesickness. Most are fleeting. Most pass as quickly as they began. A melancholy meal or two. Some may last a day or so. Only a very few can be lasting. If your child is experiencing lasting and continuous homesickness, you will not be kept out of the loop!
We will be in constant communication with you. We will call and let you know your child is having adjustment issues. We will ask questions of you to find out the best way to care for your child – after all you are the expert and know your child best. It is not a failure if the camp calls you for advice. It also does not mean your child is in danger. It means the camp is doing everything it can to make this experience a success for your child. We promise that we will keep the parents informed. Why would they be homesick? What activities were they looking forward to participating in at camp? Do they have friends from home at camp?
Also, keep this in mind: Camps do not want an unhappy child moping around camp! Homesickness can be contagious! A good camp will work with your child. They will help get them involved in activities. They will have a bunch of counselors working around the clock to help your child integrate into camp and make friends. Friends, after all, are the biggest antidote for homesickness. This is the main reason that having a child not sitting with their peers at meals and not sitting with their counselors can lead to prolonged bouts of unhappiness and homesickness.
Camp is actually often harder on the parent than it is on the child. The camper has friends in the cabin, counselors to watch out and care for them and awesome activities to engage their mind and body from morning until nighttime. What do you have as a parent?
• An empty room?
• Time on your hands?
• A schedule that does not revolve around your child for the first time in 9 to 12 years?
You cannot simply “turn off” being a parent and stop worrying! Please, for your sanity, speak to the camp staff. Call us if you need reassurance. Ask us how your child is doing. Are they making friends? This summer we hope to be posting more photos online. This will provide you with reassurance. A picture does say a thousand words.
Unfortunately, many times campers will arrive at camp pre-disposed to having a difficult transition. Parents will unknowingly set their child up to fail or struggle in the camp setting. Here are some simple, truthful phrases.
• “The house will be empty without you.”
• “I don’t know what I’ll do without you!”
• “Try it for a day, if you don’t like it we’ll come and pick you up.”
This can continue at camp when a camper receives an email or letter at camp that says something like “the dog is pining and sitting on your bed,” “we went to your favorite restaurant last night” or “I miss you terribly.”
While well intentioned and heartfelt these letters may be, it will also instill and ensure the child will have guilty feelings if they start having a good time. “How can I enjoy this experience while my Mum (or Dad) is having such a hard time without me… I need to be with them!” I need to get out.
Tip - Send encouraging letters.
• Ask them about their new friends.
• Ask them about the activities you know they were excited to participate in.
• Tell them how proud you are that they are enjoying themselves without you.
• Remind them to help clean their area! Brush their teeth! Shower!
• Tell them that it’s status quo at home. Boring. Nothing new to tell you.
These letters will help reinforce the positivity of camp. Reinforce their growing confidence. Reinforce independence.
As a parent you must allow your children the space to grow at camp. Allow them to fall. Allow them to fail in a safe, caring environment. Allow them the freedom to find themselves. Make new friends. Find their personality. Overnight camps are adventures in learning. Its positive effect will manifest itself with lifelong skills such as strength, courage, self-confidence and self-belief.
Tip - DO NOT give your child an escape clause!
This may sound harsh, however, if you are sending your child to camp with the phrase “give it a try, if you do not like it, I’ll come and pick you up” save yourself, the camp and the child the time, effort and energy and do not send the child to camp! They will already know that you will “rescue” them. That when times get tough, Mom and Dad will help them avoid a less than perfect day. It will not matter how friendly the staff are! It will not matter how awesome the activities could be. It will not matter how many friends they made in the cabin … your child will ALREADY want to go home. Your child will mentally not want to be there, and you have already given them an out! The staff will try all the tricks in the book, but it will not help because “I’m going home, my parents promised me.”
Every homesick child is a case requiring individual attention and sincere care.
Our primary goal is to make sure campers who are experiencing adjustment issues know that they are safe and cared for. Counselors create an environment that fosters friendship development. Making a friend in the cabin is our PRIMARY GOAL. Friends are the number one cure for homesickness.
Tip – Visit the camp before the first day!
It is often the unknown that scares us the most. Change is never easy. The first day at camp can be overwhelming. The size of the cabins, the large number of people milling around. Wow! By introducing the camper to the facility ahead of day one will help allay the nerves and truly helps.
• There will be a “Getting to Know Us” Day on May 5. (More details will follow.)
• There will be Open House on June 15 this year. (More details will follow.)
• I (Ian ) will also be available over the next few months to visit the lodges and meet with campers and parents.
If you would like to discuss camp, the number is 830-995-3223. Ian’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we will make this an awesome camp experience for your child!