“Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and full use of senses. Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of the confusion. Nature can frighten a child, too, and this fright serves a purpose. In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy; a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace. “ – Richard Louv Last Child in the Woods
What is Homesickness?
Homesickness is, above all, a normal feeling. It is the natural result of separating from home and loved ones. In a recent study, nearly 96 percent of all [regardless of age] boys and girls who were spending two weeks or more at overnight camp reported some homesickness on at least one day. Almost all children (and grown-ups!) feel homesick when they’re away from home. People’s feelings simply vary in intensity.
#What causes Homesickness? There are several factors that put children at greater risk for becoming homesick. For example, children with little previous experience away from home, children who have low expectations of camp, children who feel forced to go to camp, children who are unsure whether adults will help them if they need help, children who have little practice coping with negative emotions, and children whose parents express a lot of anxiety are most likely to feel homesick. You may be surprised to learn that some factors have nothing to do with the intensity of homesickness. These include geographic distance between home and camp and the presence of a friend from home at camp. When is Homesickness a problem?
Most feelings of homesickness are not problematic. In fact, missing home isn’t a problem until it becomes a preoccupation. When the feelings of sadness and anxiety associated with missing home become so strong that making friends, having fun, sleeping, eating, and participating in activities is difficult, something must be done.
What can be done to reduce Homesickness?
It used to be thought that feelings of missing home disappeared spontaneously after a few days at camp. Although this is true for some cases of mild homesickness, research has demonstrated that if left unchecked, homesickness can intensify over time.
The best remedy is a two-pronged approach: 1 Prevent homesickness at home, before it starts; and 2 Actively cope at camp, if natural feelings of homesickness reach problematic levels.
The best at-home prevention strategies include:
Working together as a family to select a camp, plan, and pack spending practice time away from home, such as a long weekend at a friend’s house experimenting with the best coping strategies during this practice separation preparing pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes to bring to camp.
#The best in-camp interventions for homesick campers include: * staying busy talking with someone (we have great secret codes that the kids came up with) remembering that you’re not at camp for your whole life-just a few * weekswriting letters home remembering all the fun activities that camp offers…and doing them!
Watch out! These Things That Make Homesickness Worse.
The most common mistake parents make is the Pick-Up Deal. It’s normal for children to ask, “What if I feel homesick?” Tell your child that some feelings of homesickness are normal and help him practice coping before camp starts. But never ever say, “If you feel homesick, I’ll come and get you.” This conveys a message of doubt and pity that undermines children’s confidence and independence. Pick-Up Deals become mental crutches and self-fulfilling prophecies for children as soon as they arrive at camp. If, after spending practice time away from home, a child is still very anxious about overnight camp, consider waiting until next summer, or have them come for one of our weekend camps to get a real feel for what it is all about.
The next common mistake but equally damaging is the. The key here is the problem is the parent is missing the child and the parents own apprehension is picked up by the child. If the parent is worried that their child is missing them during camp, do not call the camp and ask to speak to the child, this is guaranteed to lead to asking the child “Honey have you been homesick?” which in turn will lead to tears in the child and a request to come home. Do not visit your child at camp! Even if you are in the area your child does not need a visit from mom and dad. Not only is this very disruptive to all the staff and the children, when you leave you will trigger pains of homesickness.
Remember, if you think your child is homesick just suck it up and know that yes the child at times will be homesick but vast majority of the time when you are staring at the ceiling after dinner missing the child, the child is sitting around a campfire singing songs, laughing, telling stories, and making memories. Just suck it up and remember that yes the child at times will be homesick but vast majority of the time when you are staring at the ceiling after dinner missing the child, the child is sitting around a campfire singing songs, laughing, telling stories, and making memories. The Good News; Homesickness is a Chance for Growth!
Just the act of going to an overnight camp is out of the comfort zone the first time for most children, but any time a child goes past their comfort zone and has fun results in growth and resilience.
When children arrive at Wilderness Skills Institute’s Camps they will be in a world of new things and adventure, the children will be having fun, with similes and laughter. If you followed the suggestions above and if your child has some practice time away from home under their belts, they will be ready for those normal feelings of homesickness. Sure, they’ll be the rare time that they miss home, but they’ll know exactly what to think and do when it bothers them. Best of all, the staff at Wilderness Skills Institute’s camps will be there to help with a repertoire of coping strategies. Nothing boosts children’s self-esteem quite like overcoming a bout of homesickness and learning how good they are at controlling the amount of fun they have. Overcoming the fear of being away from home is a rite of passage for both the child and parent; camp truly is a classroom for life lessons.
Enjoy Toni King AKA Bright Path