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If Kids Can Get Homesick, Can Parents Get “kidsick”?

If Kids Can Get Homesick, Can Parents Get “kidsick”?

Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Category: Camp Families

Summer camp can be an exciting and transformative experience for kids: it offers opportunities for personal growth, independence, and unforgettable memories. However, for parents it can also bring about a mix of emotions, which are commonly referred to as kidsickness. These emotions can be fairly intense. But don’t worry: parental separation anxiety is a natural part of the camp experience. 

Here’s what you need to know about kidsicknessparental anxiety – and how to ease these feelings so you can support your child’s camp journey with confidence and peace of mind.

Acknowledge and Understand Your Feelings

Kidsickness is a term used to describe the feelings of longing and worry experienced by parents when their child is away at summer camp. This is a common phenomenon that affects new and seasoned camp parents alike. The emotional response can manifest in various ways, such as missing your child’s presence, having concerns for their well-being, or feeling disconnected from their daily lives. 

The first step in overcoming the malaise of sending your child away to camp is acknowledging and understanding your feelings. You may want to start by giving yourself a break: feeling kidsick or anxious is completely normal. It doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of trust or confidence in your child or the camp, and it doesn’t inherently make you an unreasonable person. 

Why You May Feel Anxious During Summer Camp

Besides the natural parental desire to keep your child close by, there may be other underlying—but equally normal—reasons for your anxiety. You might feel ill at ease while your child is at camp if you:

  • Never attended summer camp yourself and aren’t familiar with the kinds of activities and experiences kids have at camp
  • Have a tendency to be a “helicopter parent” with regard to your child’s other activities away from home, such as school, field trips, and sleepovers
  • Are worried that the wide range physical activities your child may engage in at camp will  increase the likelihood of them getting hurt. (Fortunately, this has been proven not to be the case!) 

What You Can Do About Kidsickness and Anxiety

Here’s what you can do to prevent discomfort both before and during your child’s summer camp stay.

Before Camp: Gather Information

You can set up your child—and yourself—for overnight camp success by doing your research ahead of time and preparing your child for the experience. This is not only helpful for your child, but can also be quite effective in mitigating your worry that your child isn’t ready for camp. Be sure to do the following long before you send them off:

  • Be sure you’ve chosen an accredited and reputable camp
  • Learn about camp staff qualifications, skills, and experience
  • Consider choosing a camp closer to home (more to ease your anxiety than anything else)
  • Tour the camp
  • Find out how the camp will ensure your child is supervised, cared for, and having a good time
  • Find out how and how often the camp recommends that you keep in touch with your child while they’re away
  • Involve your child in the process of preparing for camp (choosing a camp, shopping for supplies, etc.) 

Before and During Camp: Share Your Feelings

It can be enormously helpful to share your feelings with someone else. Talk openly with your partner, friends, or other parents who have had similar experiences. 

Sharing your feelings with almost any fellow parent who has sent their child to camp can provide not just validation, but relief and reassurance. It can also give you valuable insights and coping strategies from others who have been through the camp journey.

Before and During Camp: Focus on the Positive

Rather than dwelling on your worries, shift your focus to the positive aspects of summer camp. Remind yourself of the valuable skills and lifelong friendships your child will develop. Consider the personal growth opportunities and new experiences they are encountering. Embrace this time as a chance for your child to gain independence, resilience, and self-reliance. Trust in the camp’s ability to create a nurturing and supportive environment for your child’s growth.

During Camp: Stay Informed and Connected

Maintaining open lines of communication with the camp staff (within reason) can significantly alleviate parental anxiety. Before your child leaves for camp, familiarize yourself with the camp’s policies, safety protocols, and emergency procedures. Many camps provide regular updates, newsletters, or even photo galleries to keep parents informed about their child’s activities. Take advantage of these resources to stay connected with your child’s camp experience and gain peace of mind knowing that they are safe and engaged.

During Camp: Engage in Self-Care

Taking care of your own emotional well-being is important during your child’s time at camp. Engage in activities that bring you joy and help distract your mind from excessive worry. Maintain a healthy routine, spend quality time with loved ones, and practice self-compassion. By investing in your own self-care, you will not only feel more balanced, but also be better equipped to support your child when they return home.

Set Your Child Up for Success With Surprise Lake Camp

Did you know that Surprise Lake Camp has its own Camper Care Team to help campers through homesickness and other struggles that may concern parents? The team includes a variety of mental health professionals. Personable and experienced, these specialists help watch for and address any potential issues, from homesickness to social dynamics. Campers know them as friendly listeners who can help them think through challenges, while counselors turn to them for advice on supporting their campers.  

Take the next step: explore our first-time camper experiences and request more information. Then come for a tour! 

Surprise Lake Camp is a nonprofit organization that provides a home away from home for generations of young people. We believe in the value of community and friendship. Our Jewish values and identity shape our connection to nature. We’re dedicated to helping young people unplug, grow, and develop values, confidence, and skills to last a lifetime, adding to SLC’s storied history as the nation’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp.

When you make a charitable gift to Surprise Lake Camp, you give children life-changing experiences. Partner with us to provide campers confidence, growth, friendships, and Jewish identity. Donate today!