Guest blog by Dr. Tracy Brenner, “The Camp Counselor,” a Maine Camp alumna camper and counselor/Maine Camp parent …
“My child came home from camp saying he had the best summer and now is expressing ambivalence about going back. What should I do?”
Sound familiar? You are not alone. It’s common for even the happiest of campers to begin to experience apprehension about returning to camp at this time of year. Here are some reasons why:
Timing: The end of camp delivers a high-octane punch. It is filled with special events, energetic moments, and the celebration of friendships. By the end of camp, most kids have moved past their homesickness and leave on a high. Immediately following camp, kids remember the highs and forget the lows. However, as time passes, the low moments loom larger and the discomfort of homesickness becomes amplified in memory.
Rhythms and routines: Returning from camp is a transitional time. While transitions are hard for many reasons, the lack of structure between camp and the start of school may have made children long for the routines of camp. At this point of the year, your children are settled into school, re-established with their friends and fully immersed in sports and activities. The idea of leaving this rhythm, and transitioning to camp so far from now, may seem foreboding.
If this resonates with what you are seeing with your child, here are some tips and strategies:.
- Normalize the feelings: Explain that it’s perfectly normal to have mixed feelings about returning to camp once the school year has started. Share that some campers are more nervous about going back to camp for a second or third summer than they were when starting their first because returning campers have actually experienced challenges and fear those feelings returning. Remind your child that even if they were homesick, they powered through it and are more resilient because of it.
- Validate feelings; don’t correct or try to change them:When your child says, “I don’t want to go back to camp,” resist the urge to say, “but you loved camp” or “you made so many great friends.” Instead say something like, “It’s totally normal to be hesitant to return to camp. While I know there were good times, often when we are back home we remember or fear things that didn’t feel so good. Tell me more about what you’re feeling.” Then listen, validate and don’t try to change. Introduce the idea that two things can be true at the same time: “You were homesick and you also liked activities.” Then just let them sit with both of those facts for now. You don’t need to convince them to go back to camp right now.
- Take the decision off the table: Don’t get entangled in a discussion about whether or not your child is going to camp (even if you’ve submitted your deposit and that is your plan). Some kids need to feel in control of the decision. Stick with connecting to your child by validating feelings and providing empathy. You can even say: “Right now, we are not deciding about next summer. I hear you, and I believe you and I completely understand your feelings.”
- Find subtle ways to sprinkle in warm sentiments of camp: The emphasis here is on subtle! Your kids will see right through you if you’re suddenly suggesting visits to camp friends. Instead, consider looking at camp videos or photos while your child is doing something else in the same room. If your child comes over with curiosity, great. If not, let it go. If they do get sucked in, follow their lead. If they start to talk about things happening in the pictures, engage with curiosity. Don’t call them over and say, “Look at how much fun you are having here” or use this to try to prove to your child that they actually loved camp.
Remember: ambivalence about camp is perfectly normal at this time of year. Support your children with validation, warmth and empathy. Be patient. There’s lots of time for excitement and enthusiasm to return.
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools
Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth.
Next, be sure to contact our Maine Camp Guide, Laurie to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge®, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.