The American Camp Association, in conjunction with Dr. Christopher Thurber, an educator and psychologist who has written extensively about camps, has developed a guide for parents about ways to prevent and to deal with homesickness at camp. Among the suggestions:
- Prepare your child by arranging overnight stays with friends; this way their first night at camp isn't their first night away from home
- Involve your child in the decision to attend camp so he or she can "own" the decision
- Send along a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal. One parent we know created a hidden pocket in what looked like a standard "throw pillow" to hold a beloved stuffed animal that her son was embarrassed to bring to camp, but wanted to have with him. It helped.
- Check with the camp director if you believe your child is in serious distress. Some signs that may mean your child is suffering from more than transient homesickness may include not eating or sleeping, or distress that lasts more than a few days. Trust your instincts and don't consider it a failure if camp does not work out on the first try.
The American Camp Association has a DVD and CD (for listening to in the car after dropping off your child!) which are available on their website. These feature tips for a successful camp experience for child and parent alike. Check with your child's camp to see if they can provide a copy for you. Here's to a great time at camp!