Group of boys at summer camp

Preparing your child for summer camp

Sending your children to sleepaway camp can help them gain independence, confidence and new skills. But, often, it can be difficult for children to adjust to being away from home and family for an extended period of time.

Experiencing homesickness is common for children. In fact, 96 percent of children at camp report feeling homesick at least one day at camp. Luckily, there are a few ways to help your child cope, even from afar.

  • Talk to your child about their upcoming experience and remind them that they won’t be at camp forever; the time will fly by if they’re having fun.
  • Practice situations of extended periods of separation. This can be anything from a friend’s sleep-over to a weekend with other relatives. It’ll make a week at camp seem much less daunting to your child. 
  • Make arrangements with the camp director if you anticipate separation anxiety. They’ll be more than willing to work with you to make sure your child has the most fun possible. 
  • Have your child write out pre-addressed letters to send home. They might feel at ease knowing a note to mom or dad is on its way. 
  • Make use of “snail mail” and camper email, when available. An occasional note from home is a good chance to communicate love and encourage them to have as much fun as possible. 
  • Consider working with parents of friends to see if you could coordinate sending your children to camp together. Sometimes, knowing a close friend will be there, too, is helpful.
  • Consider sending an age-appropriate item along with your child that will remind them of home. This could be a pillow, blanket, token, photograph, etc. But remember that whatever you send must be something that you would be OK with getting lost or forgotten.

Be careful to avoid these temptations:

  • Don’t talk about family activities too much while your child is away. They’ll begin to think they’re missing out on quite a bit at home. 
  • Don’t call your child after the first day. Let them initiate communication if their anxiety gets worse. 
  • Don’t offer a material incentive for a successful week at camp. The camp experience is for building confidence and experiencing new things, not material gain.
  • Don’t immediately offer them an out. Messages like, “If you keep feeling this way, we’ll come get you” only encourage homesick behavior. 

Homesick parents are just as common as homesick campers. Remember, your child is likely having a great time and is in the hands of highly-trained summer staff.

For more ways to cope with homesickness, depression and anxiety, contact our behavioral health team.