Often, a big barrier to coming to camp the first time is homesickness. Not only is it common–it happens to every single person at some point. For some, it’s when they watch their family drive away on Opening Day. Others might feel it when it’s time to get in the river–and they realize there are fish in there! Someone else might fear getting up on a horse, and suddenly feel the need to speak with their mom. Or perhaps a counselor scolds them or a fellow camper gets angry at them for some perceived infraction. Another common time is bedtime. Basically, there is always something that can go wrong. If you are a grown up, you can take maeng da kratom to fight anxiety, but it does not work the same way for children.
It mostly happens because the camper is stepping outside of what is predictable and comfortable to her. Knowing that it may occur and believing that it will get better are good first steps to overcoming it. I’m copying below some thoughts on the subject by Dr. Chris Thurber, who is considered the expert on the subject in our camping industry.
Everybody has thoughts of home, but not everyone is paralyzed by them. Some people feel homesick, but never let anyone know their feelings. People normally feel worse if they think they’re the only one feeling that way (trust me, you’re not!).
Some causes of homesickness include personality factors, such as:
- little previous experience with separation from home (such as spending the night away from home)
- no previous experience at The Heart (causing doubts about the specific place and routine)
- young age (developmentally unable to express feelings and thoughts)
- anxious or depressed feelings in the three months prior to camp
- insecure attachment—this begins at home with past experiences. It is your lack of faith that a counselor will be able to take care of you.
- low perceived emotional control— the feeling of helplessness in the face of emotions. In other words, you wake up in a bad mood believes you are doomed to be in a bad mood all day because you are unable to pull yourself out of it.
More causes of homesickness include family factors, such as:
- low perceived decision control (parents don’t involve you in decision about camp, including big decisions such as if to go, and small decisions, such as what to pack)
- parents who express doubt or anxiety (such as making the statement, “I hope I remember to feed your goldfish” or “I don’t know how I’ll get along without you”)
- unresolved negative life event (such as an impending move, or divorce that hasn’t been resolved before you leave home).
Further causes of homesickness include attitude factors (these are the ones we will have the most control of here at The Heart!), such as:
- your belief that homesickness will be strong
- low expectations of camp
- negative first impressions of camp
Here are some things that YOU can think or do to make your experience better:
Things to do:
- Do something fun to forget about homesickness feelings.
- Do something to feel closer to home (write a letter, or look at the family picture, or other object from home)
- Go see someone who can talk with you to help you feel better
Things to think about:
- Think about the good side of things (activities and friends) to feel better (focus on things you can’t do at home that you can do here at The Heart).
- Think that camp is actually pretty short to make time go by faster (if you’re 10 years old, then you’ve been alive for 540 weeks, and four weeks is a very small fraction of that!)
- Think that your homesickness won’t be unbearable every moment, that its intensity comes and goes; feelings change.
- Try not to think about home and loved ones to forget about homesickness.
- Think about loved ones, to figure out what they would say to help you (remember that some things work for some, while the opposite might work for others).
What does not work:
- Doing nothing
- Wishful thinking
- Doing something angry or mean to someone else
- Trying to get home
To prevent homesickness,
- Get involved in preparation for camp (write to your friends from last year, or call or email them; or write to some new campers who are about your age, to let them get to know you [I can send you names if you want to try this])
- Practice being away (spend the night out, or go out of town to stay with relatives. While you’re away, write to your parents)
- Process any recent stressful events before coming to camp.
Positive thoughts about homesickness:
- It’s normal
- Severe cases are rare
- It teaches kids to cope (this will help so much with separations later)
- When you conquer homesickness, you’ll have nothing left but the fun, friends, adventure, happiness, love, and the memories…and the pride of how you overcame a difficult situation!
I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or any other concerns you may have.