Strategies for Handling Homesickness
Dealing with a homesick camper is easier if you have a plan.
A homesick camper is hard to miss: they are sitting alone, not talking to their bunkmates, and spending a lot of time holding their favorite stuffed animal from home. What do you do? How do you help them cope and enjoy the rest of their camp session?
As a counselor, you are the front line defense for preventing homesickness and helping campers cope should they find themselves missing home. The following offers tips for recognizing potential homesick campers, how to get them started on the right foot at camp and a few dos and don’ts should they need some reassurance.
Which campers get homesick?
If possible, try to find out about your campers’ backgrounds before they arrive, especially those who are returnees and have a history of homesickness. Knowing a little about their history can help you develop a plan before they arrive.
- Most homesick campers have these characteristics:
- Have separation anxiety or have never spent a night away from home.
- Had anxious feelings about attending camp and never fully expressed them.
- Come from unstable families or those going through tremendous change, like divorce.
How can I help prevent homesickness?
- Play name recognition games. Children feel a sense of belonging and familiarity when others recognize their name and face.
- Play “get to know you” games, which could spark conversation between campers should they share common interests.
- Post a schedule of each day’s activities (as far ahead as possible) and go over camp rules. A structured atmosphere sets expectations and provides little time to think about things they may be missing from home.
- Address any fears or concerns, like darkness or being alone. They will know they can depend on you for comfort and reassurance.
- Talk about their interests and offer suggestions for camp clinics or classes they may enjoy.
- Pair campers with similar interests or a new camper with a returnee.