For many children summertime means going to camp and whether it's sleep over camp or day camp, some children have a tough time adjusting to the new environment.
Sleepover camp is usually the most challenging, but day camp can also be tough. The actions you take before camp starts can have a big impact on the overall camp experience. So I have three sets of tips to help you get your child ready for camp.
1. One of the most important actions you can take is to help your child practice for sleepover camp by having shorter sleepovers before camp starts. A child who has never been away from home or has only been away once or twice is going to have a much harder time. So have a few sleepovers at friends' houses before going off to camp. Also- if at all possible, try some longer stays at relatives' homes. Going away for a week will be much easier if they have already experienced going away for 3-4 days.
2. Help your child have realistic expectations about camp. Most kids will feel some level of homesickness when off at camp. We all know this, but often they don't and the emotions they experience can catch them off guard. So, let them know that they may miss home especially in the beginning. That missing home is normal, and it will fade the longer they are there. Encourage them to hang in there and let them know that there are things they can do to make themselves feel better.
3. Give them tools to help them cope. Kids are very action oriented and feeling homesick can be overwhelming if they can't take action. Have them keep a journal of what they do each day and send update letters home. In some settings they may be able to send emails.Talk to the camp ahead of time and find out about phone calls home. If it's feasible try to schedule some phone calls over the course of their stay. Having a set time will give your child something to look forward to and not interfere with their adjustment to the camp environment.
Physical activity is very effective in reducing homesickness. So let your kids know that if they feel homesick, getting out and playing will make them feel better. Finally remind them that they can talk with their counselors about how they are feeling. Let them know that it's ok to tell the counselors they are feeling homesick.
By giving your children some pre-camp practice, helping them have realistic expectations, and offering some strategies to deal with homesickness you can help make this year's camp experience a very positive one. And that will make next year's experience even better.