How Some Camps Conquer Camper Homesickness
March 19, 2020 by Kyle Marshall

Camp Northway

With all that summer camp has to offer, it isn’t always easy for everyone to have the same, great experience. Being away from home can be a point of stress for kids who, in some cases, have never spent time away from their normal setting. Ultimately, it can manifest into homesickness. This does not need to be something that ruins a child’s time at camp.

It helps to understand that everyone gets homesick, no matter how young or old one is. Missing home is a natural thing for someone to feel, whether we are going away to summer camp or have moved away to pursue work or school. Homesickness can fall under the umbrella of mental health, although physical symptoms like nausea and headaches can also accompany it. It is often thought to be a type of separation anxiety, but it differs in that separation anxiety typically materializes before a separation. Homesickness shows up after the fact.

David Borsook and Amos Tilley, who run the Moorelands Kids Camp at Kawagama Lake, understand just how important the issue of homesickness is. They make it a point in their presentations and meetings with parents to address it right away.

“We talk with our parents about who the staff is, how we hire them, things that they know, and all the things that they’re aware of,” Tilley said. “But a big part of why it works is we say to parents that they have access to David or I. They are able to call us and get an update on their kid.”

Camp Mini-Yo-We

Campers have 24-hour supervision at Moorelands Kids Camp, so children are within eye shot of their cabin leaders and are always with their groups. Borsook and Tilley say this helps reduce the risk of a child dealing with that intense loneliness that can come with homesickness.

“It’s routine that I think is really important when you’re talking about scheduling, because it’s that consistency and that safety net that makes them comfortable at camp,” Borsook explained.

This means that keeping campers busy and engaged in social activities is one of the most important ways that camps help campers defend against homesickness.

Dana McDade is a counseling consultant and co-director of Camp Otterdale, located off of Highway 15 on the shores of Otter Lake. She runs the camp with Jeff Brown, who has been in charge of Camp Otterdale for the last 25 years. McDade explains that as a way to get kids engaged and participating right away at Camp Otterdale is through a fun orientation campers participate in within their groups.

The staff spends the first couple of days honing in on kids who are struggling to get settled. They also use an activity board so that their campers can keep track of activities they have signed up for, as well as activities their relatives or friends have signed up for. It is split into six periods throughout the day and according to McDade, it can be really beneficial to the child’s experience and future.

“One of the things that is just so cool and I love seeing it, is when two little girls who have never really been on their own, are chatting along and walking up from swimming to their cabin (completely oblivious to the fact that anybody’s paying attention to them),” said McDade. “They’re just so free. I think that when a child sort of learns the routine and knows they have choices, fits in with their cabin, has a really kind counselor, that sense of freedom, I think it just stays with them for the rest of their lives.”

Homesickness does not need to be a giant weight on your child or family. Each residential camp is ready with enough fun to ensure every camper has an adventure of a lifetime.

For ways to plan ahead and battle homesickness before dropping your child off at camp, read our story on preventative activities you can do!

How To Help Campers Deal with Homesickness

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