Sleepaway camp can be both an exciting and scary time for a child, especially when it’s their first time away from home. Not only are they being separated from home and their family, they are being separated for a long period of time. The camp homesickness experienced during this time can be much more extreme when compared to daily school separation anxiety. It’s important to keep in mind that this is 100% normal.
Not only can children experience this anxiety, a parent can feel the same way. It can be rather scary and overwhelming when a child calls you asking to come home. Do you get in your car to pick up your child right away to fix the camp homesickness problem? Or do you encourage your child to continue their camp stay, leading way to the development of independence? These are questions every parent asks.
To help with this topic and dilemma, we sought out camp homesickness advice from Sherry Wiener, DSW. Sherry is the Director of Support Services at the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School.
It took time and homework, but we found the appropriate camp for our child. We included our son/daughter in the process and truly believed sleepaway camp would be a wonderful experience. We did not anticipate the hysterics and pleas to come home in the letters and phone calls that we are receiving. What should we do?
Suggestions to help your child cope with camp homesickness at sleepaway camp:
- Do not panic. Homesickness is normal, and most children experience it the first time they sleep away from home, especially at sleepaway camp.
- Remember that one of the reasons you selected this camp is because you have confidence in the camp personnel. Communication between parents and camp staff is very important for children and their parents while the children are at camp. If you feel your child is experiencing difficulties, call the camp director.
- Hopefully, you discussed being homesick with your child before he/she left. Remind your child of that conversation. Tell your child that you understand but have confidence in his/her ability to handle the situation. After all, there are only a few weeks left before it is time to come home.
- Limit phone calls. If you or your child insist on phone communication, keep the calls brief and again, focus on positive activities and friends in camp.
- Write a short letter and do not tell your child how much you miss him/her or that you can’t wait to see him/her.
- Focus on the positive and the fun activities in camp.
- Encourage your child to stay busy.
- It may be helpful for your child to discuss his/her feelings with a counselor or a friend.
- Do not go into rescue mode. Do not bribe or negotiate staying at camp.
The Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School is a prestigious NYC Jewish Day School in the heart of New York City. Located in the Upper East Side of NYC, this Jewish Day School promotes academic growth through community and collaboration.