Advice for Families
Families frequently tell us how much their child grew while away at camp. Why is that?
Camp works because family members are not here. Children progress because they have ample opportunities to really learn and to work things out for themselves. Camp invites exploration and play, encourages manageable risk-taking, and helps develop community and relationship skills. Camp is a safe place to make mistakes and find gratification for having survived and managed through those mistakes.
Homesickness and Handling Tearful Phone Calls
Being away from home can be hard. Everything is new and unfamiliar. Don’t get rattled by the tearful call. Often times, children just need some connection time and a chance to vent and they feel better. They hang up, wipe their tears and go off to be with friends and participate in activities. Family members are left with the worry that things aren’t going well or the feeling they must step in to solve things. If you are concerned, call your child’s headquarters and ask to speak with the counselor or unit leader. They can check on things and give you their perspective but give them some time to respond. They are all very busy with their students.
For many, an early, mild bout of homesickness is inevitable. If you do have a homesick child, portray things as quite boring at home. Don’t tell them of exciting activities or visitors, and don’t talk about food or going out to eat. Those of you at home are reading a lot, the family dog sleeps all day, and the internet is not working. Adventures out are limited to trips to Home Depot or the fabric store. Be sure to ask your child to share at least one or two positive things for the next call.
Michael Thompson is an expert in camps and children and a national speaker on the topic. He offers families the following advice on how they can help a child beat homesickness at camp.
- You can do some preparation. Tell your children that homesickness is normal, that it means they have a home that they love.
- Empathize with your child’s fears, but do not get infected by them.
- Express confidence in your child’s resilience and admiration for their courage in going to camp.
- Tell your child that you are sure they will get help from counselors and friends when needed.
- And, please, tell your children that you want them to have fun. Children need to go off to camp with your blessing, not your anxiety.
We highly discourage daily visits and suggest one visit per week be the maximum number of visits a family makes to Camp. For more information, please see our Visiting Campus page.
Involve your child in preparing for camp. Work together to choose their bedding, purchase their toiletries, order uniforms, etc. Work together to complete the forms. This all helps them to get excited about camp and can reduce homesickness. And don't forget to label everything! Here's a link to Mabel's Labels. They have a camp series.
In a group living environment, campers must be independent in getting out of bed when reveille or the bell sounds. For a week or so before coming to camp, have your child get into the habit of getting ready for bed with minimal guidance and getting up with minimal prompts. Students will not have access to their phones at night so those who use a device to help them fall asleep will need to get used to sleeping without one. A non-wifi device with headphones is allowed.
If your child takes a daily medication, camp is not the time to add, remove, or make other adjustments. Every student taking a daily medication will need to report to the Health Center each day to pick up their dose. In order to help your child get into the routine of this, consider setting up a process at home whereby they seek you out to get their medication. For example, parents should avoid “presenting” medication at breakfast but rather create a system that is driven and prompted by your child.
High School students will manage their own personal account. Therefore, they should understand the need to budget their money for the duration of their stay at camp. Determine how many weeks the money needs to last and discuss how much on average they might spend. Junior and Intermediate students will be permitted to charge $15 per week from their personal account. Typically, $50 per week will cover all expenses for all ages.
Follow the Packing List. Space is extremely limited and be sure to put a label on everything!