If your child is headed for a sleepaway camp, especially for the first time, his fears may be compounded. You may have to do some serious work in easing those nerves the night before he leaves or on the drive to camp. Keep these tips in mind:
Share your experiences. Your kids don’t have the perspective yet to know that what happens on the first day is not how it will be for the rest of the stay. But you do. So share happy-ending personal stories that show that you can relate to his fears, says Thompson. Didn’t go to camp? Stories about the first day of school or college are good, too!
Avoid false assurances.
Try not to declare, “Everybody will love you!” It may happen, but it may not. And then you’ve lost your kid’s trust. Instead say, “I know you might feel lonely at times, but I think you’ll have fun.” Remind your child of other situations when she didn’t know anyone at first, but made friends.
Stick to snail mail.
No matter how confident your child seems, prepare yourself for a letter proclaiming her desire to come home. Your gut reaction might be to talk to your gloomy girl. But research has shown that back-and-forth calls and text messages actually worsen homesickness. Write a letter back instead. “Letters aren’t as emotionally evocative as phone calls,” says Thurber.
Don’t make a “pickup deal.” If you tell your child that she can come home if she’s still feeling homesick after, say, three days, you guarantee that she will. Remind her that she can talk to the staff—and her fellow campers!—about how she feels.
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