Here are some of those predicting factors and ideas for what can help with them:
Little Previous Experience Away from Home
Spending the night away from home with friends or relatives will give children the experience of being away, and they will better know what to expect at camp. This experience helps children regulate their feelings. The best advice is to have your child spend nights away from home more frequently in the time before camp begins. Once the feeling of being away becomes familiar the more comfortable camp will feel.
Negative Expectations of Camp
If your child has only seen bad camp horror movies or heard frightening things about how they might be treated the chances are good they will be homesick. It is most important that we talk to our children about their fears and reassure them that all will be well and that camp will be an amazing experience for them. As parents we only want the best for our kids and they need to know that. Camp is a privilege, not an punishment.
Low Perceived Control
Children who feel they are being forced to go to camp will have a higher rate of homesickness. It is best to encourage your child's input into the decision. We recommend parents do most of the research and then go over your findings with your child, letting him or her have the final choices about place and length of time away. Since this sense of choice and control is also important during camp, tell your child that should he or she feel homesick there are things that can be done to feel better and so be sure to talk to his or her counselor.
Some campers question whether our camp counselors will take care of them the ways their parents do. Please talk about this with your children. It is important to assure a child that the counselors will care about them and that the directors will be there all the time if for any reason they are having difficulty. We will always be available.
Expressed Parental Anxiety
Anxiety can be contagious! If parents are worried about camp and show this fear to their child, the chances are good that the child will pick up on that anxiety. Please, tell your child you are jealous that you can’t go to camp. If you went to camp yourself let them know how wonderful it was. Also, it is important to avoid creating something to worry about concerning what might happen while a child is gone: cleaning a room, moving, or any major changes to a child's world. Please anticipate that if you or your child are not feeling comfortable you can talk to us and let us help. Being positive at all times about camp will only help make your child’s time a more positive experience.
Expectations of Intense Homesickness
If a child feels they will be homesick at camp, they usually are. This can be a self fulfilling prophecy. So it is important that parents encourage children and give them the skills needed before camp to make their experience a success. Talk about camp often. It can be very effective when you give a child situations to solve, for instance: "You lost your bug spray. What will you do?" Helping your child anticipate being able to solve problems will empower him or her and increase comfort when things eventually do happen.
Over the years we have found that if parents can help do the above things, the chances of a child feeling overwhelmed with anxiety are minimized and we can easily assist them with any mild homesickness they might be experiencing. Our goal at camp is to help children succeed, and it is extremely rare that a child will leave camp early due to homesickness. We have found that children who do experience homesickness and resolve it at SNC are often our biggest advocates, often crying the last day and saying they can’t wait to get back to SNC for the next session. We are extremely skilled at helping children overcome their homesickness. If the rare occasion should arise when a child is experiencing extreme anxiety, we will be in direct contact with you to discuss the best course of action. As parents ourselves, we are here for you, please contact us with any questions or concerns if you anticipate your child having severe homesickness.
We highly recommend that if you feel your child will be homesick you might also consider getting the DVD The Secret Ingredient of Summer Camp Success from the American Camp Association. It is a real confidence booster for any child considering camp. This DVD has been able to reduce homesickness by 50% when families have used it prior to camp.