Homesick and Happy at Summer Camp

Homesick and Kidsick

I have a confession. I never liked the term “homesickness.” Missing your family and the comforts of home is normal. Our families are our safe haven. Of course being away from loved ones will feel different. It will never be “home.” Our children should learn that there will be many places in their lives that can feel “close to home” where there are friends and adults who will take care of them and respect them. This is so important to helping them become independent. So what does that mean for camp? How can you prepare your child and yourself?…

I know what you’re thinking. The world is scary. Our kids are exposed to events that we never were. Anxiety in children is on the rise. What’s a parent to do? I live next to Newtown, CT. Like so many of us, my world was rocked that day. To think that our babies were vulnerable in school; of all places! I thought that this summer, more than any other, our children need to get away from it all. They need to have a place where they can be carefree. My job as a Camp Director is to do everything in my power to provide a safe place for them to be kids and to show parents that I am guarding their children in the same ways they would.

I hope your children will have the opportunity to enjoy a camp experience this summer. The joy they will get from trying activities, being silly and meeting like-minded kids is priceless. They will feel so good about themselves and will be proud to show you their accomplishments. Tell them that you trust the people in charge. If your child senses that you are fearful, they will hang on to that. If they think only you can provide a safe environment, then where can they go? You’re putting your faith in the Camp Director, so do your homework to make sure the program matches your values.  Tell them everything they need to know to understand your child.

Teach your child that they can have two feelings at the same time – missing you and having fun. Tell them you’ll be there at the end of the day when camp ends, or on visiting day if staying at overnight camp.  Those anchors will help as will phone calls, letters and talking with your child about their day. Acknowledge their feelings and help them to focus on the positives.

I have some parents that call me every day. I’m their lifeline. I’m happy to be there for them and to support them like I do my campers who are missing home. Make a connection with the people in charge. Trusting your child to other people can be scary. Day camp and overnight camp are gifts for your child and you.  And give yourself one more gift… read Michael Thompson’s book Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow. Michael’s stories and advice for kids and parents will help everyone understand these normal feelings and have a great experience.


Sue Lein
Sue is Owner/Director of Camp Emerson a residential camp in Hinsdale, MA for girls and boys age 7-15. Sue happily gave up the corporate HR life over 20 year ago to run her family’s camp where she lovingly empowers children every day. She lives in Ridgefield, CT during the winter with her husband and teen boy/girl twins.

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