Many first year campers have never been away from home for an extended period of time. It is natural, therefore, that their reluctance about leaving friends and family could be carried to camp. It is with this in mind that I offer these suggestions. Homesickness is a natural result of the changes in a child’s environment. Parents can take courage from the fact that many campers do not experience this, and those that do recover swiftly. All of the camp staff, from the director down, are prepared to help the youngster with the adjustment, expedited with the cooperation of the parent. These suggestions are designed to help you prepare your child for the enriching experience that French Woods provides.
If your youngster exhibits concern about going to camp, encourage him/her to talk to you about it. The child is worried about the unknown and is looking for understanding. It is helpful to tell your child that such concerns are normal and that many other campers feel the same way. If there are specific worries about bunkmates, clothes, or anything else, let your child call the camp office and speak with Isaac. Often specific answers are not necessary after the child has had the opportunity to express himself/herself to a receptive ear.
Begin by involving your child in the process of choosing a camp. The more that the child owns the decision, the more comfortable the child will feel being at camp. Don’t be ambivalent about the length of your child’s stay at camp. There should be no trial periods. He/she is there for a full session or a full summer and should understand this. A “try-out” approach is a sure loser, certain to create a serious homesickness problem at camp. On the other hand, don’t make your child feel he/she must go to camp, no matter how enthusiastic you may feel about the benefits of the experience. Send a note or care package (REMEMBER-NO FOOD) ahead of time to arrive the first day of camp. Acknowledge, in a positive way, that you will miss your child. For example, you can say “I am going to miss you, but I know that you will have a good time at camp.”
Reassure your child that everything at home will be the same as when he left; that pets will be cared for, possessions protected, etc. If, for some reason, this is not possible let Isaac know so that he and his staff can effectively be supportive. Don’t bribe. Linking a successful stay at camp to a material object sends the wrong message. The reward should be your child’s new found confidence and independence. Please notify Isaac of any upsetting event which may have occurred prior to camp, or is to occur during the summer. This might include illness or death in the family, poor school grades, divorce, or moving to a new house or city. The camp staff is there to help. When seeing your child off at the bus, make your parting brief and pleasant. Long goodbyes and floods of tears are upsetting. The same applies for visiting days, too. Remember, our staff will always be there to help make you and your child feel comfortable.
Every camp asks for parents to fill out medical and profile information. Ensure that you complete the medical and activity profiles as completely as possible. While the camp is designed to provide instruction and recreation in many areas, certain youngsters may ave a more rewarding time if encouraged in specific activities. The camp staff’s knowledge of your child’s interests (and Phobias!) can be helpful in arranging the most appropriate program from the wide variety of activities offered.
Your cooperation is needed to ensure a successful summer for your child. Most children are resilient and adapt successfully to new situations. Parents, however, sometimes find it difficult to adjust to the youngsters being away from home. To prevent any negative effects on your children: Write or email frequently with good news and a cheerful tone – chatty and pleasant. Try not to telephone except in an emergency. Contact Isaac if you have a special concern. Be assured we will contact you if your child is experiencing difficulties. Remember children have access to payphones should they need to call you after the first week of each session.
When a “rescue call” comes from the child, offer calm reassurance and put the time frame into perspective. Avoid the temptation to take the child home early. Should you receive an upsetting call or e-mail, telephone Isaac immediately. Isaac and his staff will help. MAKE NO PROMISES. This is a sure route to failure. Talk candidly with the Isaac or your child’s head counselor to obtain his/her perspective on your child’s adjustment. Don’t feel guilty about encouraging your child to stay at camp. For many children, camp is a first step toward independence and plays an important role in their growth and development.
Camp is an experience that cannot be duplicated in any other environment, offering the opportunity for your child to achieve the poise and confidence that comes with the mastery of skills and the sociability developed as a vital participant in a structured and democratic society of his/her peers. French Woods works diligently to assemble the best staff possible. Countless hours throughout the year go into preparation and evaluation of the camp program. With your help, we are well prepared to serve the needs of your child.