Coping with Homesickness

Homesickness is a normal feeling—many campers miss home and family while at camp! Homesickness can look and feel differently for each person, from brief moments of sadness to tears. A successful stay at camp is possible—and it starts before the summer begins! Here’s how to prepare your camper to stay overnight at Camp Akita.

  • Before Camp
  • What NOT to do
  • What happens if my child gets homesick at camp?
  • Additional Resources

  • Before Camp
    • Practice overnights away from home. Sleepovers with friends, long weekends at a relative’s house, or overnight babysitters can help campers prepare for nights away from home. They also gain practice in telling other trusted adults their needs and feelings, which can help them tell their Counselors if they are feeling homesick at camp.
    • Create a calming “toolkit.” Identify activities that help your camper wind down and feel connected to home. Then, practice a bedtime routine that includes your toolkit. For example, read with a flashlight before bed. Campers can continue this routine in their bunk at camp! Your toolkit might include…
      • Chapter books
      • Puzzle and activity books
      • Journals and pens
      • Letter writing supplies
      • Breathing practices and meditations
      • Favorite items, like a stuffed animal.
    • Involve cabin mates. If you are attending Camp Akita with friends, give them a heads-up about your worries and coping strategies. When campers feel homesick, they often walk away from others. Practice walking towards others—remember, feeling homesick is normal and friends can help! Not attending Camp Akita with buddies? That's ok! Before camp, practice what you might say to a Counselor or cabinmate, such as, "I'm feeling sad. Can you sit with me?" Letting others know how you feel is a brave first step to feeling better.
      • Prepare for camp together. Campers who feel “forced” to attend often exhibit homesickness. Instead, watch camp videos, pack and prepare for camp as a team, and build excitement together!
      • Keep goodbyes short. The first day of camp can feel both exciting and nerve-racking! When it’s time to say goodbye at Check-In, share excitement with your camper and your confidence that they’ll have a great time. Long goodbyes signal that you are nervous and that your camper should be, too.
      • Visit Camp Akita before your camp session. Get acquainted with Camp Akita, meet staff, and build excitement before the summer begins! All are invited to Akita Spring Fun Day on April 24 and new campers are invited to our First-Time Camper Open House on May 30.

      What NOT to do

      Unfortunately, we’ve seen each of these before! Here’s our advice on what to avoid.
      • Don’t promise your camper that you’ll pick them up from camp. This creates low expectations and often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!
      • Don’t promise your camper that they can call you. We do not allow campers to call home; when they do, we see a dramatic increase in the camper’s stress, anxiety, and even panic. Instead, talk about (and practice!) how to tell cabin mates and Counselors how you feel. Counselors can connect campers with the nurse or Camp Director if it’s time to involve parents. Read on for details and find our cell phone policy here.
      • Don’t use bribery. Linking a successful stay at camp to getting a material object once home sends the wrong message. The reward should be a fun time at camp!
      • Instead…DO be honest about your child’s readiness to attend Camp Akita. If your child is dreading camp, cannot spend the night away from parents, or has a difficult time calming negative emotions, it might not be the right time to attend Camp Akita. Unsure if your child is ready for camp? We would welcome a conversation to discuss with you!


      What happens if my child is homesick while at camp?

      Most campers end up having a great camp experience despite moments of missing home. However, some campers experience intense homesickness. Here are the steps the Camp Akita staff takes to help, as well as how we determine when it’s time to go home:

      STEP 1:Camper exhibits homesickness, including expressing feelings of missing home, desire to return home, tearfulness, and/or disinterest in participating in activities. 

      STEP 2:Counselors employ coping strategies: facilitating storytelling, providing calming activities, reconnecting the camper with friends and cabinmates, finding different ways to be involved or be a “helper,” creating a bedtime routine, sharing the camp schedule, and/or creating a “check-in” system with Counselors to update each other on feelings throughout the day.
      STEP 3:If campers continue to feel consistently homesick, the Camp Director becomes involved. After visiting with the camper, the Camp Director may call home. This serves to update parents and gather information. Sometimes parents have helpful tips (a snack before bed is a calming trick) or additional information for facilitating conversation (a recent loss in the family). The Director can also create a communication plan, such as the parent emails the Director a short message to be printed off and shared with the camper. Sometimes a conversation between the Director and a parent does the trick!
      STEP 4:Campers exhibit intense homesickness: not eating, not sleeping, prolonged tearfulness or anger, consistently withdrawn from and/or disruptive to others, demanding to leave, and/or consistent refusal to participate.
      STEP 5:The Camp Director calls parents; it is time for the camper to return home. If this is the case, we are committed to helping the camper celebrate the time they did spend at Camp Akita—they are not a failure! We will focus on the positive and encourage the camper to try camp again next year.

      If a camper is exhibiting “Step 4” behaviors at night, we will wait until the morning to call home. We will only transport campers at night for medical emergencies. Often knowing there’s a plan to call home in the morning will help campers get through the night.


      Additional Resources

      Find more advice on preventing and managing homesickness here:
      American Camp Association (ACA): Homesickness