My child really wants to go to overnight camp this summer. I just don’t know if she’s ready to be away from home that long and will be homesick. How do I know if she’s really ready for overnight camp?
Michael Ohl, camp executive at YMCA Camp Chief Ouray, offers the following advice for parents:
This is a commonly asked question. Homesickness affects all ages, including staff, and there is no way to pick who it will affect. When we receive these questions, we advise parents with the following:
- Visit the camp. Meet the staff and tour the grounds so it is not a new place. Research the camp together with your child so you all know what to expect.
- Sleep over at a friend or family member’s house, to see how your child will cope while being away from home for a short time.
- Attend day camps first. A day camp can be a great starting point because your child will be in a large group of children. This will help her work on her group processing skills and asking for help from staff.
- Encouragement helps more than you think. If you as the parent say, “I know you can do this,” the child is more likely to be successful.
- “When” statements build tools. Acknowledge there will be some down time when the child might be bored or miss home. If the child expects it, then staff can work with the child on getting through that time. Paired with encouragement, the child has the tools she can use to make overnight camp successful.
- Assign chores at home. Having some responsibility can help build independence and help the child take on new challenges when she’s at camp.
- Ask questions of the camp. Make a list of your questions and call the camp. You can also ask for family references so you hear straight from other campers and parents. Check the camp’s social media pages (reviews can be misleading, look at comments on posts). Camp leaders love to talk about camp and how we help make children successful.
- An “out” undermines the whole experience. Children who think they can call home and be picked up anytime have no reason to work through challenges that arise. One moment can trigger a child to shut down, making them unwilling to accept help from staff.