Homesickness is an issue every year at summer camp. Usually it affects first-year campers. It need not be a problem if you properly prepare your Scout, and you observe certain precautions yourself. Here are a few articles that discuss the issue:
- Homesickness prevention strategies for parents of children planning to attend summer camp (PDF)
- Not a Happy Camper – Article in Scouting Magazine on homesickness prevention
- New thinking needed on helping kids avoid or cope with homesickness – Article from University of Michigan Health System (Note: This page seems to be unreachable, so look here for more resources from UM Health)
If this is your son’s first time away from home for this length of time, please read these articles and discuss the issues with your son. Note the reasons in the article why we discourage Scouts from having or using cell phones at camp*, and while it may seem cruel to cut off communication with home, a homesickness situation can actually be made worse by a phone call home. The adults spending the week at camp with your son, as well as camp staff, have handled homesickness before, both in their own kids and in others. If there is a serious problem that warrants a call home, they know where to reach you, but nearly all cases are handled right in camp. It’s important to ensure that your son has the positive camp experience he deserves and that you expect (and have paid for!).
Sometimes, physical discomfort can lead to feelings of wanting to go home. This is why certain behavior at camp is encouraged, and which you can support during your time preparing with your son. Some of these are:
- Drink plenty of water – Dehydration can lead to stomach aches, lethargy or headaches. Drink before becoming thirsty! Water is plentiful and readily available everywhere in camp. Your son should have a water bottle with him and drink water frequently.
- Eat nutritious food – Three meals a day are served in the dining hall. If your son has any food allergies, is a vegetarian or has other dietary restrictions, be sure to tell your troop camp leadership as soon as possible so they can make arrangements with the camp staff.
- Wear comfortable shoes and change into clean socks each day – If shoes don’t fit or socks are dirty, walking will be uncomfortable, and there will be plenty of walking during the week.
- Take a shower – This can help lift his spirits. Most camps provide modern, private showers.
With a little prevention, preparation, and understanding, homesickness need not spoil a camper’s experience.
*Note that some Scouts use their smartphones for purposes other than making telephone calls or texting, such as using the Scout Handbook and tools such as a map, compass or camera. Some troops and camps allow their use for this purpose, but Scouts should still be discouraged from using smartphones to call home or friends, as this can be a distraction from being at camp.