Camps and sleepovers should be fun. But some kids get anxious and don’t want to go. Here are 10 tips to help your child with homesickness.
The day of the big sleepover party at her classmate’s house, Mary changed her mind and said she didn’t want to go. In fact, she told her mother she had a stomachache.
“My daughter had begged me and my husband for weeks to let her go,” Mary’s mom, Pamela Blum, who works as a teacher, said. “We met the girl’s family and even had her classmate sleepover at our house. However, on the day of the overnight, she cried and said she wanted to stay home.”
Mary’s 8-years-old and has never been away from her family at night. She goes to day camp in the summer and doesn’t want to go to sleep away camp like her older brother, Sam. Sam looks forward to sleep away camp each summer. His friend Aaron, however, got homesick and wanted to leave on the first day.
A number of sleep away camps let campers write letters to their parents. They don’t allow phone calls because children who are homesick may cry and ask to be picked up.
Kids and parents react differently towards homesickness. Here are 10 tips to help your child overcome homesickness:
- As soon as you make plans for sleepovers or sleep away camp with your child, talk about the upcoming separation.
- Listen to your child’s anxieties and fears, and let him know that it’s completely normal to experience homesickness.
- Before your child goes to sleep away camp or spends the night at a friend’s house, visit the place with your child. Let her see where she’ll be sleeping, eating, and playing. If possible, at camp, let your child meet the camp counselor or camp director.
- Do a trial run with a family member. Have your child stay over at a close relative’s house — someone he knows.
- Talk to the camp counselor or director about your child’s fears, and ask if the counselors could set up a meet-and-greet on the first day of camp; they usually do.
- Encourage your child to have a good time, and don’t be negative. If he says he’ll miss you, let him know you’ll miss him, too, and will see him in a few weeks.
- Pack self-addressed stamped envelopes and stationery for your child.
- Don’t talk about the time away from home or make a big deal about it.
- Allow your child some time to adjust. Getting over homesickness can take a few days.
- Give your kids coping skills to overcome homesickness.
Coping skills can be learned before your child goes on an overnight or to a sleep away camp. Here are five tips to help your child cope with homesickness:
- Have your child keep a journal where she can draw pictures and write about her feelings.
- Encourage your child to talk to a camp counselor if she experiences homesickness.
- Tell your child to imagine the games and fun events that he’ll experience and that he’ll meet new friends.
- Let your child know that the time away will be brief.
- If your child is young, have her bring her favorite stuffed animal or toy with her — if the camp allows it.
Parents shouldn’t be enablers. Some camp counselors have complained that parents can bring out a child’s homesickness. Here are four tips for parents who may experience separation anxiety:
- Don’t call or send a lot of letters. Give your child some space to be on his own.
- When dropping off your child, don’t cry or dwell on the separation. Yes, you’ll miss your child. Know that camp helps develop leadership skills and independence.
- Don’t make surprise visits. Your child is doing just fine on his own.
- Enjoy your free time and plan activities that you can do without your child.
Sleepovers and sleep away camps should be fun experiences for children and a time for parents to do grownup activities. Enjoy the time apart, and, remember, it goes quickly. Each time your child is allowed to be independent, she’ll soon stop feeling homesick.
February 28, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN