My daughter got very homesick at camp last year and I had to go pick her up. She says she wants to go again this year, though. Should I let her go even though she was so unhappy last year? If she gets homesick again, should I pick her up or let her face her homesickness?

Answers

Barbara Spalding, Parent Resource & Coach for Education

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Absolutely allow her to return to summer camp, especially since she is asking. A year makes all the difference in maturity and self-confidence. Is she returning to the same camp and if so, did she make any friends that will also be returning?

I would also have the discussion with her about maturing, praising her for her bravery and at the same time helping her to understand that the ups and downs, the back and forth in confidence is all part of the discovery phase of being a child/adolescent... that applies to last year's experience as well as this year's experience. This understanding might help her "muscle" through any homesickness difficulty she encounters this summer... just knowing that it is completely normal and expected.

Let me suggest journaling with prompts for positive feedback. Perhaps this is something you work on together in advance of camp... or perhaps you pick up a journal at the local bookstore. I highly recommend that it isn't a blank notebook but instead guided discussion points. Together come up with open ended questions or prompts like "most embarrassing moment" or "today I was surprised by". Were there certain memories from last year that she can capitalize on, like a fear of the diving board that perhaps this summer she hopes to overcome? Add that in the journal or "Proudest Achievement". Journals work with pictures or doodles too if she is too young or not inclined to write. Coming up with these topics will plant the seed for making memories, trying new things and hopefully sticking it out the entire camp session.

Jennifer Oleniczak, Founder and Artistic Director of The Engaging Educator

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I think YES! The fact she wants to go again means she wants to work through this homesickness.

Is there a way to connect with other parents at the camp? Perhaps you can find her a buddy before camp starts that she can connect with if she's feeling especially homesick, before she reaches out to you.

How long is the camp? Having letters or care packages can be great ways to connect with your daughter while she isn't around...also, (ran a sleepaway camp for a few years) we learned that some of the kids were only homesick when their parents called, so is it possible to let her call you if she needs to, versus you calling her?

Also, you can tuck notes/treats in her bag! And let her bring a blanket or something that is very "bed at home".

Mike McDonell, President, Kidventure Inc.

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It's a great question. However, one of the most underrated benefits of going to overnight camp is the opportunity to do something (without) parents. Even if that something is a bit of a struggle. To be homesick at camp is natural and part of the experience for most kids. Sensitive and tuned in counselors should be able to work with your child and navigate her through those times. Have a plan with the counselors and let them know your daughter might be homesick. They are used to it. Unless the child's experience is unhealthy, I recommend keeping her there and not picking her up. Limit phone calls and let her experience both the highs and home sick lows. In the end her sense of confidence and realization of independence will be greater because of it.

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