Monday night was the “last supper” before I began my summer travels. I will be gone for a couple of months. I spend a lot of time with my family and especially with my mom…. My mom looked at me with these very sad eyes and said:
“I’m going to miss you sooooo much!”
Oh my…. my heart was breaking, I was torn. Well into my 50′s, and having been to camp for many many years, I felt that strange feeling of butterflies, sadness, happiness and nervousness as I embarked on my summer adventures. I was a bit sad to leave my apartment, my routine, my tennis courts and especially my mommy and daddy. OMG!!
Why do I share this? DO NOT SAY “I’m going to miss you soooo much” TO YOUR CHILD BEFORE THEY LEAVE FOR CAMP!!!!!
As I just said, I am a middle aged, independent, adult and these words just crushed me. Imagine what these words can do to your elementary school aged child????
Instead, let me make a few suggestions on how to handle the night before departure:
1. Allow your child their feelings: If your child says they are nervous, sad, scared, homesick or whatever, allow them to have these feelings. Reassure them that these feelings are normal. As my dad used to say… ”It’s okay to have butterflies. Just get them to fly in formation.”
2. Provide a little taste of home: If your child has a favorite pillow, stuffed animal, blanket or whatever, make sure your child brings it to camp. It is comforting and all the kids bring these items to help feel a little close to home.
3. Let your child know that you will be fine: There are so many things to say or not to say. Bottom line… be vague about what you will be doing. ”I will keep busy.” ”I will be working.” ”I may take some time to read.” ”Although I love having you at home, I am so much more excited that you get to go to camp.” ”I know you will love it.”
4. Establish communication plans: Do not give your child an option to call you if they are feeling homesick. Encourage them to write in their journal, to send you a letter (provide pre-addressed stamped envelopes), to talk to their counselors, and to begin counting on their new friends and “camp family”. Let your child know that their feelings will go away and to feel comfortable to ask for help.
5. THERE IS NO PICK-UP PLAN!!! Don’t offer it, don’t speak it, don’t write it, don’t even hint at it. You will cripple your child if you set them up with this option.
6. Don’t pass your feelings of homesickness on to your child: Whether you are remembering your own feelings or feel as if you won’t be able to be without your baby, let them go!!! With a smile and a hug, send them on their way and have a great summer.
Karen Meister, in partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers. Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437. Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world. Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.