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June 18, 2014
Summer is almost here, and if you’ve decided to send your child to summer camp, you may be experiencing a range of emotions and wondering how best to make this a good experience for your little one. It’s perfectly normal for first-time campers—and their parents—to experience some anxiety as camp gets closer and closer. We expect homesickness from our children who are away at camp, but the fact that you might miss your child while he or she is gone could catch you by surprise. At the same time, there is probably a certain level of excitement (and there should be), as the whole point of summer camp is for your child to have fun, learn to be independent and build long-lasting skills and friendships.
Homesickness is what most parents and kids worry about, and for good reason, as the American Camp Association found that 83% of kids who attend sleep-away camp experience at least a bit of homesickness. In other words, it’s not just normal, it’s to be expected. Given that, what can you do to help your child beat homesickness at camp? Some good guidelines include the following:
In addition to homesickness, there are a few other things to consider. First, if your child is going with a friend, it’s a good idea to take them together so that you don’t arrive an hour later than your child’s friend only to find that he or she has already made other friends. Second, keep your goodbyes short and sweet. Don’t get dramatic, and try not to cry. Let your child know how much you love him or her, how exciting camp will be, and how you can’t wait to hear about all of the wonderful things he or she has done. Lastly, don’t make a ton of changes while your child is gone. I remember going away to camp one year, and coming back to completely new living room furniture. It was disconcerting. So, don’t get rid of the dog, redo your child’s room, or adopt a new pet. Let your child know that when he or she gets back, everything will be the same.
If your child has special needs, you should put some time into thinking through your child’s particular issues, which may include things like:
Above all, remember that the whole point of this is to have FUN. An added benefit is that you might have some time to yourself as well, so do something fun for yourself while your child is gone. One day he or she will be leaving home for good; this experience gives you the opportunity to “taste” how it will eventually feel when your child leaves home. Therefore, take advantage of your time alone—after all, your child will be back from camp soon enough, and you’ll be left wondering what you did with all that free time you had!