Ah, summer camp. Sports. Waterfront. Arts and crafts. Campfires. Homesickness
That’s right. The bad news: Kids get homesick at camp.
The good news: That’s fine. It’s natural, part of the experience and not such a bad thing.
Camp is about positive energy, accomplishments, getting up on waterski’s for the first time, learning to trot in Equestrian. But there are times when even the best tennis or guitar lesson gets upstaged by thoughts of what mom and dad and the dog are doing back home.
As parents, hearing a homesick voice isn’t easy. As camp directors, handling homesickness is one of our most perennial – and important – tasks.
Michael Thompson may be one of the world’s foremost authorities on homesickness. He has just published a book on the subject…Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow (Ballantine).
Michael says that while it’s natural for parents to shelter their children from all negative emotions (like homesickness), that actually holds back their personal growth. Feeling homesick is a “major developmental milestone,” he writes. And when kids learn to work through those feelings – with the help of a well trained and very caring staff – they not only grow. They are transformed.
Michael’s book describes how living in camp’s multigenerational community, enjoying daily rituals with new friends, trying new things and testing new limits enables youngsters – even homesick ones – to grow in ways that surprise not only their parents, but even themselves.
Michael knows that children who are away from their parents can be “both homesick and happy, scared and successful, anxious and exuberant.”
His book is filled with practical advice and memorable anecdotes. He writes with warmth, passion and compassion. Its an interesting read for parents – even those whose children have long since lost their homesick blues.