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Dealing with “End of Camp” Sadness: Strategies to Help Your Child Transition from Camp to Home

Earlier this summer I wrote about helping your child to cope with home-sickness when heading off to summer camp.

As I told you in that post, I struggled with separating anxiety as a child and so being away from home was incredibly difficult for me.

But, when my teen years came and my desire to be with friends took over, my favorite place in the world was camp.

As a teenager, I would not only attend camp as a camper, but I would spend weeks volunteering for the younger-aged camps. Camp was my life. (In fact, I actually met my husband at camp when we were teenagers!)

So each summer, when camp ended and it was time to come home, coming back to reality was depressing.

I remember sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car on the way home from the boat, staring out at the streets which had suddenly become foreign to me. The city looked harsh, cold and dirty compared to life on the small island where I attended camp. I hated how fast it all moved, and how meaningless it felt compared to the warmth, fun and friendships I had just left.

When I stepped into my house, the comfort of my own bed didn’t make up for the loneliness. I wanted to be with my friends again. I wanted life to be all about fun. I wanted to be back at camp.

I coped by staying in close contact with my camp friends. We had lots of reunions and got together on weekends. To this day, many of my close friends are people I met at summer camp.

If your child or teenager is enduring the “end of camp” blues, they are not alone. The American Camp Association® (ACA) says, “The blues are not uncommon — causing some children to be tired, moody, and quieter than usual, or even irritable or grumpy.”

Here are some tips from the American Camp Association® for families to help ease the transition from camp to home:

  • Help them relax and adjust to the slower pace of non-camp life. Suggest they take a warm shower and get plenty of rest. Plan to have an "old favorite" for dinner.
  • Encourage reconnecting with friends from home. Volunteer to set up play dates and get-togethers to help re-establish a sense of belonging with friends they haven't seen in a long time.
  • Allow your child to write, email, or call camp friends. Many camps encourage campers to exchange e-mail and IM addresses with one another. Parents should make sure to oversee their child's online activities, and make sure that all camp policies are being followed.
  • Be open and available to talk about camp. Allow your children to reflect on their friends, their favorite moment at camp, and what they miss most about camp. Sharing experiences and feelings will help them feel connected to you, and will make the transition easier.
  • Organize a small "reunion." Getting together with local camp friends can help reassure your child that though his or her friends are out of sight, they are not out of mind!

The ACA reminds parents that it is normal for them to miss their camp family the same way they missed their home family at camp. “If your child gets the blues, remember that they miss camp because they had fun — and they enjoyed taking healthy risks in a safe and nurturing environment... By being supportive and understanding, families can ease the sadness and help campers adjust to life at home. And, families can help campers remember that next summer is not that far away.”

For more information on camping visit http://www.campparents.org/.


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