Summer is right around the corner, which means summer camps are gearing up for the season! Camp is a great opportunity to unplug and spend meaningful time with God and friends. It can be a turning point in the lives of some kids, but it can be a troubling time for others. If you are planning a summer camp, you are probably all too aware that some of your campers are going to experience homesickness. Anyone of any age can feel homesick. Even kids that are excited about attending camp may get hit with the reality of homesickness once camp starts. Even though homesickness can initially hinder the experience of a camper, in most cases, it can be overcome with a little help from staff and fellow campers.
When camp starts, there is a whirlwind of activities. Campers will be busy finding their sleeping quarters, connecting with their friends, and getting unpacked. However, once the dust settles, reality may set in and homesickness can begin. If you have a homesick camper, it is important to understand how they are feeling. Homesickness can show up as a feeling of anxiety, making the camper feel uncomfortable, nervous, anxious, stressed, tense, have an upset stomach, or shaky. It can also show up as a feeling of sadness. When homesickness decides to rear its ugly head, it can be a traumatic experience for the camper. They want to participate and enjoy camp activities, but they miss the familiar things that bring them comfort like family and home. The child may withdraw from the group and want to spend time alone, which can make it worse.
Keep the camper busy and engaged. As camp progresses, homesickness should subside, but if it doesn’t, their counselor should give the camper some one on one time and help them walk through the process. Explain that it is normal and okay to feel homesick and that it is only temporary. Temporarily redirecting their thoughts can also be effective. If the camper starts talking about the things they miss and gets upset, first acknowledge their feelings, then try mentioning an upcoming fun activity to help them focus on something positive. Sometimes, looking forward to an activity and shifting the focus from missing home will be enough to get the camper engaged and feeling better.
Although, it may not be as simple as the power of positive thinking. Encouraging them to talk to someone other than a camp counselor may be necessary. If you have a nurse’s station set up, that may be a perfect place for the camper to go. It is typically a safe and quiet place, where a camper can find peace and comfort. Most camp nurses are prepared and experienced in helping campers through homesickness. You can also have the homesick camper talk to a friend that has overcame homesickness. Talking to a friend that has lived through the experience firsthand can offer a different perspective than that of a counselor, camp director, or camp nurse.
Even if one of your campers is hit with the reality of homesickness, camp can still be a wonderful experience. If you are informed, patient, and prepared you will be able to help the camper move past missing home and realize what a great experience lies ahead at camp!