Even if this isn't your child's first summer at sleepaway camp, homesickness can still surface. If you've noticed extra phone calls, an anxious tone in letters or other signs that your child misses you, don't panic. Homesickness is a normal rite of passage -- and it will pass. Here's how to help.
When you hear the catch in your child's voice on the phone or read a letter that makes it clear how much she misses you, it's hard to resist that mama bear instinct to race across the country and save your baby. Fight that urge. Homesickness is totally normal, and you and your child will both survive the summer. So what can you do?
1. Communicate with counselors
Your child is neither the first nor the last to experience homesickness, and counselors and staff are well trained to handle the situation. Encourage your child to talk to his or her counselors, says SheKnows Summer expert Jill Tipograph. Counselors have many ways to support kids -- and teens -- experiencing homesickness at any point during the summer.
2. Send a care package
Sometimes a little piece of home can help kids feel connected. Check with the camp for their package guidelines, then send off your bundle of love. Most camps will allow you to send books, magazines, travel board games, or decks of cards. Girls might appreciate getting the fixings for a pedicure party -- hit up the dollar store and get enough for the whole bunk to participate. For the boys, some water guns and silly string (again, check camp rules!) can go a long way. One great book to include is Diane Falanga's P.S. I Hate It Here!, a compilation of 150 hilarious letters written by kids at summer camp that helps kids feel far less alone.
3. Find a friend
Encourage your child to find a friend at camp. Generally, counselors will help homesick kids find a buddy to pair up with -- and often, just the act of talking to a friend is the cure. Also, make sure your child isn't sitting around bemoaning her fate. It's unlikely -- counselors know that getting involved in activities is the fastest way to cure homesickness -- but if you're worried, a simple call to the camp director can allay your concerns.
4. Promote confidence
Kids need rules and boundaries, such as no jumping on the sofa, brush your teeth before bed and wear a seatbelt in the car. When your child starts camp, she needs to hear, "It's normal to be homesick. You're staying at camp." Let her know that you have faith in her ability to get past her initial fears. Tell her you know that she will make friends, learn new things and have a great time.
"Rescuing" your child is the quick and dirty short-term solution that won't help at all in the long run -- it teaches your child that he doesn't need to try to solve his own problems. It's tempting when the child in question is a 10-year-old who melts your heart, but unless you want the same child to rely on you at age 40, don't give in. Simply restate your confidence in your child's ability to survive. And in less time than you think, you'll see how you've helped him thrive.
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