Letting go and jumping into camp

Real stories on facing down homesickness

Parents and counselors weighed in with Our Kids Go to Camp on their experiences with adjusting to summer camp, getting over homesickness (and kidsickness) and learning to take part in the joys of the sumer camp experience.


Learning to let go

Nicola Brandes, mother of Gabrielle, 3, first year; Richmond Hill, Ontario:

I was okay sending Gabrielle, my youngest, for the first time this year. I sent her to the preschool “Small Wonders” program. She has peanut allergies; this was very unsettling as well. And—this just shows that they’re in tune with the children—I came to pick her up one day and I’m approached by two of her counsellors, and they tell me Gabrielle is too advanced for that program. I actually started crying, "What, letting go from a baby camp to go into this big massive camp?" But I made the decision to put her in the three- to four-year-old program, when she was almost two-and-a-half. (Richmond Hill Country Club Day Camp)

Who needs tissues when you’ve got friends?

Chris, 21, camp staff, fifth year; Toronto, Ontario:

We embrace homesickness. It happens to everyone. It happens to me. I’ll say to someone who’s upset, "Hey, I was homesick two days ago; it started to get to me, too." If you make a kid feel like some kind of sissy because of his feelings, he’s never going to tell you what’s going on. That just drives it underground and makes it worse. You have to deal with it.

We had one child, he couldn’t tell me for the longest time what he was homesick most about. But I talked to him and talked to him and finally he told me he really missed his pet bird. So what we did was make a model bird for him.

Then there was a little girl. She cried so much we were almost afraid to ask her what was making her so sad. But we did and she said she really missed having her cat sleeping on her bed. So we got this pillowcase and stuffed it till it was about the weight of a cat and when she got into her bunk, someone put it on her feet. And every 10 minutes or so, they’d go and move it a little so it felt like her cat moving. She was fine after that. (Camp Arowhon)

Growing one summer day at a time

Brad Mittelman, father of Ethan, 4, second year; Paige, 7, third year; Thornhill, Ontario:

I thought it was going to be a lot harder than it actually was when Ethan started camp last summer. He had a nanny and this was his first experience without one. And I have to give credit to the director of the camp’s preschool program. She ran an amazing program. He was coming home with crafts every day, which is important. And while I thought it was going to go horribly, at least at first—because it was something completely different—he was kept so happy and so busy that he loved camp.

You sort of watch them grow up over the summer. School is structured and wonderful and great, but camp gives them that freedom to really get a sense of who they are and where they fit in. My daughter Paige came home every day, telling me “Daddy, I made friends with this person and that person.” She was making friends with kids all over the city. (Centre Camp).

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