“I want to come home.”
These are five dreaded words no parent wants to hear when they send their child away for overnight sleepaway camp. While the sentiment is a bummer, for sure, it’s also completely normal for a child to feel separation anxiety when away at camp — and even you too.
If your child calls you from camp, telling you how miserable they are or how much they miss you and their home, your knee-jerk response might compel you to jump in the car and drive up to the camp to rescue them. But don’t.
Instead, use these strategies to help your child deal with homesickness and stick it out at camp. Because, before they know it, they’ll be having so much fun, the only reason they’ll be in a tizzy to see you is just so they can tell you all about it.
Concentrate on the positive. The staff at Muskoka Woods has more than 40 years of experience dealing with homesickness. It’s a feeling that often passes in a few days, which is why they say if you do receive a call from your child, concentrate on the positive aspects of camp. Talk about what’s fun and exciting about camp and how stoked you are for them. Try to wash away their worries and focus on the fun and friendships that are sure to be had at camp, and that you can’t wait to see them to hear all about it!
Tuck a note in with their belongings. Homesickness usually strikes within the first few nights of camp. A surprise card or letter that they can read and feel closer to you, can only help to ease their stress about being away and lend some comfort at those times when they are missing you the most. You can ease their fears by letting them know that it’s okay to be homesick sometimes and that the feeling will go away the more time they spend at camp, have fun and make new friends.
Send something mid-week. Receiving mail or packages at camp can have a huge impact on helping your children with homesickness. Some camps offer packages you can send right from the camp. Muskoka Woods offers a mid-week care package that includes a Muskoka Woods stuffed animal, bubbles, playing cards and a sweet treat, all in a cute drawstring bag.
Pack a piece of home. Do they have a favourite stuffie they sleep with? A family photo in their room? Does the smell of mom’s perfume put them at ease? Whether it’s a little spritz of mom’s favourite fragrance on their pillow or a song that maybe you all love to belt out in the car, even the smallest of sensory cues can go a long way in putting them at ease in their home away from home. So, let them take it with them as having a familiar piece from home can help them settle comfortably in their new space.
Rachel is the publisher of inBetween magazine geared towards parents of teens and young adults. Mom to her 12-year-old son, her more than 20 years of experience in journalism have been spent researching and writing about issues closest to families. Rachel, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, she now lives with her husband and their son in Toronto.