There is so much information on how to deal with camper homesickness out there. If you attend staff training at one camp you might be given the advice to distract the homesick camper and avoid any conversations about home. At another camp you might be told to talk with a homesick camper about their family and home life to help connect with them. The truth is, every child’s different. What works for one, may not work for another.
I am not going to give my 2-cents in this post on how I think you should handle campers who are missing home so badly that they cannot enjoy their camp experience, not when there are fantastic resources available like the book Homesick and Happy by Michael Thompson. Instead I am going to give you some unique ideas from other camp professionals.
1. USE BREAD TAGS
Homesick kids being inducted into a secret group? Yep, and you can tell who they are by the bread tag on their shoes. Jack Schott explains this neat tactic at CampingCoasttoCoast.com.
2. FLUFFY FRIENDS
Kids love stuffed animals. They provide a comfort that is unexplainable. On the Camp Counselor Blog the author talks about having a duffel bag full of stuffed animals to give to homesick campers. There’s a bit more to it than that. Click here to read the post.
3. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW?
In the same article as above, the author writes about a tactic she uses where she asks the homesick camper to think of their favorite TV show episode and character and, after they lay in bed, to play the episode in their mind as though they are that character and they can make whatever new choices they want.
4. READ A BEDTIME STORY
This one comes from a submission to one of my email round tables from Melanie. She writes, “I liked reading a story to my campers just before bed, because it got them focused on the book instead of other things. It also helped wind down the day better so they were calmer and fell asleep.”
5. FIND A CAMP MOM VOLUNTEER
Here’s another idea that comes from one of my email round tables (sheesh, you all have some neat ideas). This one is from Kim.
“At our camp we have a volunteer position called “Camp Mom”. The camp mom helps out with homesick campers by spending some time with them, reading stories, playing little games with them. It takes some of the stress off of our counsellors so they still have the patience they need for the rest of the campers.”
6. LET CAMPERS CALL HOME
In a post titled How Letting Homesick Campers Call Home Actually Helped Them Stay (and come back!) James Davis makes a solid argument for why camps should let kids call home when they are feeling homesick. He knows this is not the appropriate action for every homesick camper, but he explains why it may be the best thing to do for some of them.