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OVERCOMING HOMESICKNESS AT CAMP! By Ben Moss
The number one reason parents give for not sending their child to sleep away camp is that the child is not ready for camp. Most parents fear their camper will face homesickness and not be able to handle the camp setting. In a recent blog post I wrote about techniques that parents can use at home to prepare their child for summer camp. Today, we will explore how great summer camps like Circle F Dude Ranch Camp handle homesickness.
The first thing to understand is that no matter the camp, the location, or the activities most campers at some point will experience varied levels of homesickness. This includes even campers that have been to camp before. It is perfectly natural to miss our home, family, and friends. Camp can be overwhelming for some in the first day or two.
This is why great summer camps train their counselors on the signs of homesickness. In the first few days of camp from the minute they arrive, and when needed even longer, staff keep close eye on camper interactions. An active camper is often a camper free of homesickness. Counselors and senior staff design opening day and the first few days of camp to be action packed with little down time. The less time a camper has to think about home the better they will acclimate to the camp community.
When campers have friends to experience summer camp activities together, they almost always do better on the homesickness front. This is why Circle F Dude Ranch takes a family camp approach where all of our campers and staff are viewed as brothers and sisters. Counselors work hard to form bonds between campers early in the camp process. They play games, do icebreaking activities, and lead activities to help campers get to know each other. These things make huge impacts on the success at sleep away camp.
We also work to control communication between home and campers. Campers need about three days away from home to settle in and get used to camp. After these three days, phone calls usually help; however, sometimes they will reset the homesickness clock. We have seen campers laughing and smiling at camp, but crying when they get on the phone with parents and guardians. This is where you have to trust your summer camp team. Always remember they are working to ensure your camper has the best experience. If your camper is showing signs of homesickness through letters home or via the phone, then make sure to contact the Camp Director.
Camp Directors will work with parents to help their camper better acclimate. When parents work with their camp team and follow the advice their campers often quickly overcome their homesickness.
At Circle F Dude Ranch, we are looking forward to our 64 fantastic summer camp season. My last words of advice are if you are concerned about homesickness, talk with your camp directly; they will always be happy to help.
Next week we explore techniques for communicating with your camper while they are at camp.
Ben Moss is the Camp Director at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp. He has over 20 years of youth development experience working in youth programing and summer camps.