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Homesickness - Your child's first time away from home



Have you a child going away on a residential camp for the first time? A child's first time spending a lot of time away from their family can be difficult even for the most resilient of children. Check out some of the following tips to help your child overcome homesickness.


Remember that homesickness is fairly common. Missing home, parents, pets or friends is pretty normal. It is part of growing up and leaving home. Speak openly about it and your child will experience these feelings with less anxiety and more understanding. Don't promise to pick up your child early if he or she gets homesick. Nothing will cause a kid to be preoccupied more about home than the idea that they can go home. Use a wall calendar at home to show that the time spent at camp won't be an "eternity", and make sure your child is part of the decision-making process regarding summer camp. Ensure that kids get to take part in the decision about when to go to camp, what kind of camp to go to and how long to stay - It's important that kids feel part of the process.

Tips to help your child through homesickness


1. Give your kids a chance to practice being away from home, perhaps through a weekend stay at a grandparent's house or a sleepover at a friend's home. No phone calls. Talk about it with your child afterwards. How did your child feel the second night?

2. Talk to other families who have gone to the camp in years past to familiarise yourself with what goes on. Go over the daily schedule with your child so there are no surprises.

3. Teach your child how to care for him/herself. Children need to know how to select appropriate clothing, make a bed with clean sheets, put clothes away, set a table, carry out chores, handle laundry, etc

4. Problem solve with your child by using "what if" situations to prepare for unexpected events. What if you lose your goggles/mobile phone? What if you don't get along with another child? What if you don't feel well? Let your child brainstorm for solutions and make sure they know the "chain of command" at camp for handling problems.

5. If relevant, familiarise your child with the outdoors. Many children are unfamiliar with total darkness and country night sounds. Practice walking in the dark with a flashlight.

6. Prepare yourself for your child going off to camp. You have chosen the best camp for your child and he/she will have a wonderful summer full of fun, new friends, new songs and many exciting experiences.

7. Once a child does return home, spend some quality time with him or her. Sometimes just reading next to each other, or watching a favourite movie, or taking a walk together will help reconnect a parent and child after the separation

Communication

Communication is key, both with your child and the camp they are attending. Discuss communication at camp with the staff there. Does your camp allow phone calls? Will they have a mobile phone – how will you organise phone credit – what is the best time to ring. If letters or postcards are best give your child stamped envelopes and postcards already addressed.

You may want to send letters to your child before camp begins so mail is waiting when they arrive. Write daily, keeping it simple. Send the sports or comics from the local newspaper, a cute card, a package with a word game, etc. If it is necessary, communicate with camp organisers about any special circumstances or considerations regarding your child's well being or behaviour.

Looking for ideas for summer camps - visit our dedicated summer camp section