When our kids go to camp, we expect them to experience homesickness. In order to try and make those homesick feelings short-lived for my kids, I have a number of things I do and strategies I adopt.
I remind them that they are strong and capable. I tell them that I have confidence in them and that I know they are ready for camp.
I don’t tell them I miss them. I don’t want them worrying about how I’m coping with their absence.
I don’t share details about the “fun stuff” going on at home. If I take the other kids out for an exciting day, I don’t tell them. I don’t want them feeling like they are missing out.
I remind them that there are people at camp who can help them with whatever they need. If it’s a hug or a special tuck-in, they can get that. They are in loving and capable hands. I would never send them somewhere they were not completely safe.
I communicate a lot via snail mail. Lots of letters and care packages from home.
So, we have the homesickness wrapped up. But what about when they get home and start experiencing “camp sickness”? They’ve just had a valuable life experience and it’s normal that they miss their camp friends and routines. They’ve also just experienced a new level of independence and coming home to mommy may feel a bit suffocating for them.
How can parents help transition their kids from exciting camp life back to the reality of home?
1. A welcome home party. When my son went to camp for the first time, he was greeted with “Welcome Home” signs, giddy siblings, neighbours, cousins and friends. We had his favourite meal ready for him and the kids had an evening in the pool. Coming home felt pretty darn good.
2. Plan activities. Don’t let them come home and wallow in boredom. Remind them that being home is fun too and plan some fun family outings.
3. Did your child discover a new interest at camp? Maybe they learned a bit of guitar, enjoyed being in the camp play or discovered they had a flare for arts and crafts. Joc Palm, Director of Glen Bernard Camp (where my daughters attend), suggests encouraging them to continue with these interests with local classes. Supporting their new camp interest at home is a positive step in helping with the transition home. Joc also suggests that campers contribute to a school or community project that embodies their camp’s values. Camp has fostered an incredible appreciation of nature for my girls. As a result, they have been involved in projects and protests that makes both them and their camp proud.
4. When my son comes home from Camp Ponacka, he is holding on tight to his “Rag Bag” — a journal given to all of the boys including email and snail mail addresses. Camp Director Anne Morawetz says encouraging the boys to keep in touch makes being away from their summer buddies a little less painful.
5. If your kids are on social media, they can stay connected with camp through Facebook and other channels. It is a great way for a child to keep that connected feeling to camp.
How have your little campers done transitioning to home? Did you get met with open arms upon their return home or with immediate requests to stay at camp longer next summer?