The American Camp Association (ACA) recommends the following tips to help your child deal with homesickness at camp:
1. Encourage your child's independence throughout the year. Practice separations, such as sleepovers at a friend’s house, will help.
2. Involve your child in the process of choosing a camp. The more that the child owns the decision, the more comfortable she’ll feel being at camp.
3. Discuss what camp will be like before your child leaves. Consider role-playing anticipated situations, such as using a flashlight to find the bathroom.
4. Reach an agreement ahead of time on calling each other. If your child’s camp has a no-phone-calls policy, honor it and reassure your child you’ll be in touch via letters or postcards.
5. Send a note or care package 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.”
6. Don’t bribe. Linking a successful stay at camp to a material object sends the wrong message. The reward should be your child’s newfound confidence and independence.
7. Pack a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal.
8. Avoid the temptation to take the child home early. If a “rescue call” comes from the child, offer calm reassurance and put the time frame into perspective. Talk candidly with the camp director to obtain his/her perspective on your child’s adjustment.
9. 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 development.
10. Most of all, trust your instincts. While most incidents of homesickness will pass in a day or two, approximately 7 percent of the cases are severe. If your child is not eating or sleeping because of anxiety or depression, work with the camp director and staff to evaluate the situation. If you must cut a child’s camp stay short because of homesickness, don’t make the child feel like a failure. Focus on the positive and encourage him to try camp again next year.