Handling Homesickness

The first step is for our Camp staff to attempt to investigate the issue behind a child's homesickness. At times, that is difficult to pinpoint the reasons as a child may be confused as to where these feelings are originating from.

The second step, once the reasons for homesickness have been determined, is to assist in loneliness by encouraging the camper to make friends and partake in camp games. 

The third step, if a camper doesn't find friends at camp, the staff is more than happy to hang out with the camper during meal prep, horseback riding lessons, activity trips.  For example, many homesick campers like to spend time in the kitchen during food preparation, this enables them to feel more welcome and feel productive as they lend a hand at cooking.

The fourth step, if the camper is not adjusting well to camp, is to have a camp staff meeting. At times, we also prefer to have the bunkmates and other camper present during such meetings to determine whether the issue at hand is serious enough to consult the parents of the homesick child.

The fifth step, if all fails, the camp assigns a liaison to contact the homesick camper's parents to discuss any behavioral issues and remedies that have been taken. A camper-parent conversation is also recommended as the child may be more comfortable to discuss her feelings with parents. If the camper requests to be withdrawn from camp, and the parents agree, parents are welcome to pick up the camper within 24-48 hours.

The "H" word: HomesicknessAlthough many camp directors and staff do not want to admit to it, homesickness at camp does occur. It can be as mild as an occasional longing for home, crying spell to obsessive-compulsive behavior. Our staff at Whiteface Camp combats these types of feelings regularly, they are not uncommon. How severe is too severe ? We take five steps before we assign a liaison to speak with a parent directly.
Lake Clear, NY 12945 Phone: 518.302.6227 © Copyright 2018. Whiteface Camp. All Rights Reserved
Is there possibility of Homesickness at camp ?
We sometimes see homesickness in campers that have never been to overnight camp. It is very important that parents discuss the reasons behind homesickness prior to arriving at camp. In the past, we have had children who experience panic attacks, crying spells, and general melancholy after a week of camp, and in certain circumstances they needed to be dismissed or picked up by parents voluntarily.

Homesickness can potentially disrupt the atmosphere of camp and its operation. Other campers are unsure as to the reasons behind a particular camper's departure, and therefore their performance decreases, especially when the homesick camper is a newly acquired friend.

If parents feel that there may be a possibility of homesickness, please understand that children will say and do anything to seek attention and return home. Homesickness is part of growing up and becoming independent, and unfortunately, some children need go through such periods to understand the importance of self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

When camp staff  notices severe separation anxiety, we discuss these concerns privately. If the issue is serious enough to disrupt camp life we notify the parents immediately and brainstorm any available options.

The camper may be asked to be removed from the program. Parents have the choice of voluntarily picking up their child at a scheduled time.
Articles about Homesickness at Camp
Homesick Children Will ... 
  • Campers may attempt to dislike the camp for various reasons: dislike the counselors, dislike the instructors, dislike other campers, dislike of activities, dislike of a horse assignment, dislike of chores or getting up in the morning.
  • Homesick campers may have crying spells, panic attacks, feels of depression and anxiety, and have coping deficits. Crying spells usually occur during a conversation with a parent, as the sound of Moms/Dads voice triggers a very strong, emotional response. While direct communication between a camper and the parent reinforces the separation and may prevent a camper from adjusting., it may also benefit a camper as it also serves as a form of support, comfort and understanding.
  • Campers may intentionally misbehave and become verbally abusive to become dismissed from camp
  • ​Campers may disobey rules and regulations of camp
Parents, here's how not to make matters worse: 

1. Avoid expressing anxiety. Your homesick camper is not your sounding board. Instead of saying how much you miss him, express optimism about the experience your child is going through. 

2. Write instead of call. Phone calls can backfire. "Parents hear their children sobbing, children hear their parents sobbing," says psychologist Chris Thurber. "That real-time contact with home exacerbates homesickness." 

3. Find a friend. Encourage your child to look for friends and the support of a trusted adult. This can help ease the transition. 

4. Don't make a deal. Promising to pick your child up if homesickness sets in only decreases your child's likelihood of success in the new environment.
Advice for Parents
Sending your child to camp offers a wonderful opportunity for both you and your child to practice “letting go.” Learning to let go allows children to develop autonomy and a stronger sense of self, make new friends, develop new social skills, learn about teamwork, be creative and more.
Think of camp as a learning experience
When a parent decides to send a child to camp, it's a wonderful opportunity for both, parent and child, to practice independence. Children who learn to be more independent develop autonomy; confidence, expand their social skills, engage in teamwork, express their creativity.