With summer right around the corner, many parents are wondering how to best prepare their child for a summer camp experience.
With over 70 years of positive youth development at 4-H Camp Overlook, we have learned some tried and true tips that will increase success at overnight camp and help eliminate or reduce homesickness for first time campers.
- Involve your child in the decision to attend camp. Look at the website and brochure together, and choose camp activities that matches your child’s interest and abilities.
- Short sessions (3 days) are ideal for first-time campers.
- Many camps offer shorter programs to allow campers to get a taste of camp in a short period.
- If possible, visit camp before your session, or look at the camp website and Facebook for pictures and a map to help acclimate your camper.
- Short stays away from parents can help – kids who have attended day camps or have had sleepovers at a friend’s house tend to be more successful at overnight camp.
- Do not promise phone calls home, or make any deals about picking kids up. Kids will fixate on this and have trouble focusing on having fun!
- If a child seems anxious before coming to camp, go over with them positive coping strategy’s they can use once they are at camp.
- Writing letters, talking to a trusted counselor, or engaging in a group activity are just some of the ways to alleviate homesickness.
- Sending mail or email to your child with a positive message can help. If sending snail mail, send it a couple of days ahead of camp so it will be there when they arrive.
If a child does get homesick at camp, counselors typically have training in how to deal and comfort campers who are homesick. The first priority is to get kids engaged in activities they enjoy and making friends with their cabin mates. Homesickness is common at first, but usually goes away after a day or so.
For severe homesickness, counselors will typically call parents or guardians for consultation and make a plan on how to move forward. Phone calls between campers and parents can be arranged, but are not recommended, as they usually increase homesickness. If homesickness does not improve, or if the child is having trouble sleeping or eating, you may be asked to pick up your child as a last resort.
Casey Sukeforth is 4-H Camp Overlook Program Director.
Photo of first time campers at Cloverbud camp provided.