Help for First-Time Camp Parents
When a child goes to resident camp for the first time, a lot of talk revolves around homesickness, the common term for the well-known phenomena of missing home and parents. Much has been discussed in camp literature about the prevention and treatment of homesickness. Camp staff are well-trained to help campers adjust to camp life. What has not been addressed much is the emotional toll a first-time camp experience takes on parents. In most cases, the first-time camp experience is harder on parents than it is on their child. First-time campers find themselves in a fun, exciting environment. They have little time to miss home when they are meeting new friends, experiencing great activities, and having the time of their lives. Parents, on the other hand, are often at home missing their child, worrying about how they are doing, and figuring out how to fill time that is normally spent focused on caring for their child. “Kidsickness” refers to the emotions some parents feel when they experience their first long separation from their child, which often is a stay at a traditional summer camp. Some parents adjust easily to having their child away, while others struggle with sadness and anxiety while their child is at camp. Here are a few helpful tips for first-time camp parents to help fight off kidsickness:
Keep in Touch
While your child is at camp, you’ll be able to view photos and news from camp. This is a great way for you to see what is going on at camp, and it may help you relax to see your child and other campers having fun. It’s also reassuring to know what your child is doing at camp. When you write them letters and emails, you can mention things you see going on at camp, such as special events, activities, and outpost trips.
One special thing about camp is that it is one of the only places where children and parents exchange hand-written letters. Campers love receiving letters and postcards from home, so be sure to keep a steady stream of mail coming to your camper. Let friends and relatives know your camper’s address at camp, so they can send mail, too! While it is difficult for parents to go for two weeks without hearing their child’s voice on the phone, remember that the independence your child is gaining is invaluable. Letters you receive from your child while they are at camp may be some of the only written memories you will have from their childhood. Save them!
Remember the Benefits
“My shy, quiet nine year old went to Gold Arrow Camp not knowing a soul. Two weeks later, she came home transformed. She blossomed. She made friends, learned a multitude of activities, felt safe, loved, confident, and happy, really, really happy. As hard as it was on me, it was all worth it for her. It was the single best thing I have ever done for her.” – First-Time GAC Parent
Why did you decide to send your child to camp in the first place? Remembering the many benefits your child will gain from the experience will make the separation easier and remind you of the gift you are giving your child by allowing them to have this experience:
- Independence: The chance to build confidence in their ability to be away from parents.
- Break from electronics: The opportunity to live electronics-free and focus on building face-to-face relationships skills.
- Fun & Relaxation: Two weeks of non-competitive fun, and a much-needed break from the stresses of school, competitive sports, and busy schedules.
- Friends: New friends campers make at camp often become year-round, life-long friends. Campers meet kids outside of their own school and city.
Stay Busy & Take Care of Yourself
Many parents have told us that they spend their child’s first camp session glued to their computer, waiting for photos to be uploaded. While we encourage you to check the photos regularly, we also encourage you to take your child’s camp time to have some quality experiences yourself. While your child is at camp, it’s a great time to do projects and trips that are not kid-friendly. Take the time to treat yourself to some fun, friends, and growth while your child is doing the same at Camp!