How to Deal With a Homesick Camper

Every parent worries their child will have a hard time adjusting to new situations and camp is no exception.  Homesickness is not uncommon at summer camp, and it’s not just limited to young or new campers. The key to dealing with homesickness is to focus on the fun they will be having and stay positive.  Eventually your camper will start having fun and overcome their feelings of unease, which teaches them the power of their own resilience.

It is important to remember that when it comes to parent involvement in dealing with a homesick camper, less is more. However, there are a few things parents can do to help deal with homesick campers before and during camp.

Clearwater Forest Campers

Manage Expectations

It is important to talk to your child about what they can expect during their week at camp before their first day.  Use our Parent’s Guide to Summer Camp to walk your child through the daily schedule and explain what it will be like living in a cabin with their peers and counselor.  Make sure they are comfortable asking for help from their counselor if anything should come up. Help your child come up with strategies for making friends on the first day.  The more information they have ahead of time, the better prepared your child will be on the first day to say goodbye to you and join in on the fun with their new cabinmates.

Talk About Missing Home

This one can be tricky, but it’s important for all parents to talk to their campers about homesickness.  Let your child know they might miss home at the beginning, and that those feelings will eventually go away once they realize how much fun they are having.  It is important to remember that it may take a day or two for new campers to adjust, but that’s okay and their counselors will help them through the transition. It is a good idea to come up with strategies to cope with homesickness, like the ones discussed in this article by Today’s Parent.  However the worst thing you can do is tell your child “If you get homesick, have them call me and I will come pick you up”.  While this may seem reasonable and soothing in the moment, this ensures your child will not make an effort to turn things around if they do become homesick.  

Clearwater Forest Campers
Speak With the Program Director About Special Concerns

If there are special circumstances in your child’s life that the camp staff should know about, make sure to contact our program director before your child attends camp.  We are happy to work with parents to come up with strategies for dealing with special circumstances such as a recent divorce, loss in the family, behavioral issues or even occasional bed wetting.  The more information we have, the better equipped we will be to help your child enjoy their camp experience to the fullest.

Contact Program Director Cassie: program@clearwaterforest.org

Sending News From Home

Getting snail mail, postcards and care packages from home can be very fun for campers while they are away, however certain topics should be avoided when sending news from home…

  • Bad news:  This can upset your camper even further if they are already struggling. Unless it is an emergency, it is best to wait until your camper has returned to tell them any bad news that may have occurred while they were at camp.  This way you can be there to help them cope.
  • Amazing news:  While this may seem odd to keep good news from your child, if they hear about how exciting things are at home, this will only exacerbate their homesickness.
  • Sentiments that make your child feel guilty:  This one can be a bit more tricky, but it’s best to avoid saying things like “wish you were here” or “missing you like crazy, come home soon!”.  These kinds of sentiments can make your child feel guilty for being at camp and have them mirror and exaggerate your feelings.

It is best to make home sound less exciting than camp by saying things like “all is quiet on the homefront” or “business as usual back home”.  Ask lots of specific questions about camp to keep your child focused on where they are and not where you are. And finally, it doesn’t hurt to remind them how proud you are of them for spending the week away from home on their own, making new friends and having a fantastic camp experience!

Clearwater Forest Campers
Stay Calm!

It is important not to let your child pick up on your apprehension about sending them away for a week. Remember, even if your child is struggling with homesickness at camp, they are gaining resilience in learning how to cope.  They are in an inclusive and non-judgemental environment, surrounded by friendly campers and staff members who are trained on how to help in these situations. You will always be notified in the case of an emergency or if we think your child’s homesickness has become a danger to themselves.

For more information, check out our article about How to Prepare Your Child For Their First Time at Camp

Clearwater Forest Camp & Retreat Center