Category Archives: homesickness

The H Word

July 07, 2013

  1. Three days into camp. I don’t know about you, but I miss my kids. One is 11 and here at camp. While I do have the benefit of catching a glimpse of him now and again, he hasn’t lived under my roof in going on four weeks. The other one is eight and is at camp for the first time starting this past Monday.
    I’m in the business of swooping off with other people’s children for three to seven weeks. I talk a mean game when it comes to kids being lonesome for home. We preach about preparation, we talk about what good hands your kids are in, we post inspirational messages from other parents, heck we even broadcast on National Public Radio with New York Times best-selling authors talking about the subject. I’d like to say we know a thing or two about how to deal with the dreaded “H word.” We’re talking about homesickness.
    Despite all my training and knowledge on the topic, and the years upon years of watching kids thrive at camp – without their parents – I had no idea how I’d feel when I got this letter in the mail today.

    Stella's first letter home

    Stella’s first letter home

    My first reaction was, “Boy, her spelling is terrible.” My second reaction was, “Oh, poor baby!” I set it down, walked away from it and came back an hour later. I took a photo of it and posted it to Instagram. I texted it to my mom, my sister and my girlfriend. I wasn’t really sure the emotion I was having. Sad? Proud? Amused? Worried? Lonesome for my kid? Yes.
    What I do know is that she’s in a loving environment, with a bunch of amazing young women who will teach her things about being a woman and a human in ways that I can’t. Like the NYT article titled Why Camp Counselors Can Out-Parent Parents, by afore mentioned NYT best-selling author, Michael Thompson says,
    “Children love to learn, but they get tired of being taught by adults. Children want to learn from older children, and, at a camp that means older campers, C.I.T.’s (counselors in training) and camp counselors. They want to live with them, emulate them, absorb them.”
    So today, in this moment, I’m just excited for her to be there – with so much on the horizon for her – so much to absorb. Canoe strokes, backhand, how to be a decent roommate, and how to overcome feeling homesick. Maybe it’s the Marine brat in me, but at this moment, I’m not worried in the least.
    Talk to me in five minutes. I’m sure I’ll have changed my mind.
    Remember moms and dads, your kids will be sending letters home from Highlands that they wrote in their first moments at camp. Take them with a grain of salt. The first week is, well, the first week. It takes time to adjust to any new living environment. Our staff is working around the clock to keep your boys busy and healthy. And they are here to validate feelings of sadness, and to remind them that it’s ok to feel sad, but the idea is to not let it overtake them. Try not to write every day (it can actually make homesickness worse), but when you do write, keep encouraging them and keep it positive.
    Keep checking the blog and the gallery. Hopefully you’ll get your fix. Be easy on yourself, you’ll adjust, too! And goodness, you only have 3.5 more weeks to go! Let’s try not to wish it away too quickly!
    And on that note…
    I ❤ CH // tracy b.

  2. The artful goodbye: How to say farewell to your child before camp

    When you start to feel blue, imagine you boy doing this!

    When you start to feel blue, imagine you boy doing this!

    Tomorrow’s the big day. I know this because I got a calendar reminder today on my computer: “Boys arrive tomorrow.” Gee, thanks, I hadn’t noticed. While we here at CH HQ are getting ready to say hello to those boys, you are getting ready to say farewell. Here are some thoughts we have on saying good bye when you send your child to camp. Tomorrow.
    1. Recognize that you will be as emotional, if not more, than your son. Being intuitive little creatures, they will pick up on your emotions. It’s important to be positive, even if you are feeling unsure and weepy. Crying or over-worry will undermine his confidence. Remind him that he *can do this*! Remind him you are just a letter away and that you love him and *believe* in him. Tell him you are excited for the experiences he’s going to have.
    Or imagine him doing this!

    Or imagine him doing this!

    2. If you haven’t already discussed homesickness with him by now, go ahead and have that conversation. Tell him missing home is natural, and that you’d be sad if he didn’t miss you. Tell him to talk to his counselor if he’s feeling blue. Remind him that you aren’t going anywhere and you’ll be there at the end with open arms dying to hear all the, as one parent emailed me today said, “the usual amusing, heroic, enlightening, and eyebrow raising stories that the boys come home with.” (Remember we are well-versed in helping boys work through homesickness.) If you have any doubt, check out Michael Thompson’s book, Homesick and Happy. It’s GREAT. Also, I recently spoke with Michael Thompson on summer camp and these issues, and it’s available on podcast.
    3. Keep it short and sweet. Make a plan ahead of time, so that there’s no surprise at 2:00 p.m. when you say, “OK buddy, we’re headed home.” If you’re taking the bus: Arrive at 9:15 – 9:30 a.m., check in with the counselor on duty at the bus, help your boy load his stuff on the bus. Make sure you’ve communicated any last minute instructions to the counselor and hang out until they move the boys on to the bus. Give him a big hug! Wave! Pat yourself on the back for keeping a stiff upper lip!
    ...or this!

    …or this!

    If you’re dropping him off at camp, tell him the plan. “First we’ll check in. Then we’ll make your bed. I’d like a tour of camp, and once we check in with the nurse, I’ll walk you back to your cabin and give you a hug from there.” Everyone likes to know what’s happening next (believe me, I have a two-year old, I know what I’m talking about). Knowing what comes next helps set him up for a confident start.
    That’s it! Positive attitude, preparation and a plan. With those three things, that goodbye will be sweet and relatively painless.
    We’ll Facebook it when the busses arrive and camp is fully underway. If your son is flying in, you’ll get a phone call from the counselor when they arrive.
    See you tomorrow!
    I ❤ CH // tracy b.