Help for Homesickness – Just in Time for Camp Season!
With summer upon us, and many children getting ready to go away to camp for the first time, parents have been camping out on my doorstep asking me what they can do to prevent homesickness. Well let me see if I can pitch some advice about this problem – which is much easier for me than pitching a tent!
First, homesickness is something that affects almost everyone that goes away from home for the first time, even if it’s just for one night. It is a normal phase of development that can usually be easily dealt with by preparing your child adequately for the experience. If you want your child to not miss out on camp because they miss home too much, I offer the following eight suggestions:
- First in preparation for going to camp, encourage your child’s growing sense of independence throughout the year with practice separations, such as sleepovers at a friend’s house.
- Give them something that reminds them of home like a favorite pillow or stuffed animal to take with them to camp
- Don’t send your child to overnight camp because you want to get him or her out of your hair, or to make a child less shy – send your child because they have a genuine interest in going. Once there, make sure the camp will keep your child active rather than reflecting on what might be happening at home.
- Make sure your child has helped pick out the camp they will be going to. It gives them more of a sense of control over the situation and makes them more comfortable about being away if it’s a place they wanted to go to.
- Make sure you tell the camp as much as possible about your child’s likes and interests.
- Be positive about the experience rather than making your child feelsad about being away from you.
- Don’t tell your child that they can come home after a few days if they don’t like it. This gives your child little incentive to adjust, and implies that you don’t want him or her to succeed.
- If you hear from the camp that your child is not sleeping or eating because they are so anxious or sad, it may be necessary to bring your child home, although this is a rare occurrence. If your child does not adjust, it does not mean that they will never be able to enjoy the experience of camping in the future. There will be many opportunities in years ahead as they gain maturity and are better able to deal with the separation and sense of independence.
Hopefully you’ll find tips like these easy ones to sleep on when it comes to your child sleeping away from home and not getting homesick at camp this summer.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids.