Helping “campsick” kids

At camp, we spend a lot of energy preventing and managing homesickness. As campers head home from camp, our families are confronted with “campsick” kids! Here’s some ideas to ease the pain of missing your home away from home.

Before we dive in, let’s define the issue. Homesickness and campsickness are really the same thing, just in different locations. Homesick kids often are happy at camp AND want to be home. We can want two things at the same time. As adults, we’ve had many years to learn to manage the pain of wanting two conflicting things at the same time. Campers are still learning that important life skill! The same is true of campsickness. Campsick kids are happy to be home with family and friends and in their own comfy beds AND they miss the crazy, ruach-filled community that they were an integral part of creating at camp.

Camp provides constant spontaneous opportunities to try new things, meet new people, have an adventure! At camp, campers are responsible to each other and needed in many ways. Their cabinmates need them for all kinds things – they are an integral part of the cabin team, the play team, the chug team, etc, etc, etc. At home, they are needed for your family team – dishes, sweeping, mowing the lawn; or for school’s team – homework, reading, sign ups – but those responsibilities may be a little less joyous and a little less playful.

So as they are adjusting to home, we have some ideas to make being “campsick” a little more bearable for you and for them:

  • Make them responsible for meaningful things. Consider adding some silliness to family dinners or chores. Do you have a cheer for mowing the lawn? Do you play music and dance at breakfast – probably not, but you can surprise them!
  • Give them space and time to decompress and connect with cabin mates.
  • Remind them of the key lessons we focused on at camp. Ask what they are grateful for today – what’s their Ma Rabu moment? And maybe share yours.
  • Ask them to share their camp stories. You may have to wait til they are ready to share. These two activities might get them started:
    • Go through the camp photos and ask what they mean. Ask them what happened right before or after a photo. Ask them where in camp a photo was taken.
    • Share their counselor’s letters and ask for their version of the same events.

If you get them talking, here are some ideas for questions that might get more than the monosyllabic go-to responses of “Fine” or “Good”

  • What is one thing that made you think differently about what it means to be Jewish?
  • Did you surprise yourself this summer? Try something and liked it? Succeeded when you didn’t think you would? Failed when you thought it would be easy?
  • What is one new thing that you tried and loved? What one new thing you tried and found hard?
  • Did you learn something you want to teach to your siblings/parents?
  • What is one activity that you did at camp that we don’t do at home?
  • If you were going to do an activity every day at camp, which would it be?
  • Tell me one thing you know about Israel that I don’t?
  • What was Shabbat like at camp? What part of camp Shabbat could we do at home?

Thank you for sharing your kids with us this summer. They built a beautiful Jewish community here at camp – filled with ruach and friendship. We hope they bring a little bit of that awesome ruach home to you!

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