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This summer, millions of children will get their first taste of independence at a summer resident camp. For many, it will also be their first experience with homesickness. But parents don’t have to feel helpless when homesickness strikes. The prescription for camper homesickness is a simple solution of preparation and patience.
Phillips Exeter Academy psychologist Dr. Christopher Thurber studied homesickness in 329 boys between the ages of 8 and 16 at resident camp. According to his results, homesickness is the norm rather than the exception. A whopping 83 percent of the campers studied reported homesickness on at least one day of camp. Thurber and the American Camp Association (ACA) suggest the following tips for parents to help their child deal with homesickness at camp:
- Encourage your child’s independence throughout the year. Practice separations, such as sleepovers at a friend’s house, can simulate the camp environment.
- Was your child involved in the process of choosing Wekeela? The more that the child owns the decision, the more comfortable the child will feel being at camp.
- Discuss what camp will be like before your child leaves. Consider role-playing anticipated situations, such as using a flashlight to find the bathroom.
- Reach an agreement ahead of time on calling each other. Explain the Wekeela phone calls policy and honor it.
- Send a note or care package ahead of time to arrive the first day of camp. Acknowledge, in a positive way, that you will miss your child. For example, you can say “I am going to miss you, but I know that you will have a good time at Wekeela.”
- Don’t bribe. Linking a successful stay at camp to a material object sends the wrong message. The reward should be your child’s new-found confidence and independence.
- Pack a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal.
- When a “rescue call” comes from the child, offer calm reassurance and put the time frame into perspective. Avoid the temptation to take the child home early.
- Talk candidly with Lori or Ephram to obtain their perspective on your child’s adjustment.
- Don’t feel guilty about encouraging your child to stay at camp. For many children, camp is a first step toward independence and plays an important role in their growth and development.
For more visit: http://www.summercamphandbook.com/84-preventing-homesickness-pt-1.html Wekeela recommends the following books: “Homesick and Happy, by Michael Thompson, Ph D;, “Bug Bites and Campfires, A story about Homesickness”, by Frank Sileo, PhD; and “P.S. I Hate It Here!” by Diana Falanga. Each book is fantastic! These books offer proactive tools for children, parents and camp staff working with children around the issue of homesickness.