Dear Mama Drama:
My daughter wants to go to sleep away camp this summer for a week, but I’m not sure she’s ready. She struggles with homesickness when she spends one night with a friend. I want her to have this opportunity and want to find ways to help her succeed. Any ideas?
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Dear Tethered Mama:
Children develop a readiness to sleep away at different ages. I love that you are encouraging your daughter’s desire to go to sleep away camp by seeking ways to support her. Often the first night or two is the hardest and it gets easier as they get into the groove of things.
I would start by talking with her about the things she is looking forward to about going to camp. Focusing on specific activities and independent skills they’ll develop can help distract children from feeling homesick. Then discuss what she thinks will help her be successful at camp. Encourage her to focus on her strengths and the skills that have helped her overcome other challenges.
Next, explore things that will help her feel safe and secure while she is gone. Many children like pictures of their family. You can send a few snapshots, make a picture book, or laminate two pictures back to back that can be easily tucked into a backpack or under her pillow to peek at as needed. Favorite books, blankets or stuffed animals are also easy supports to bring along. If she can receive mail, you can send her encouraging letters and small care packages. You can also tuck short notes in her luggage.
Plan ahead for drop-off. Some children can let go and feel more comfortable once they have connected with a peer and others do so when connected with an adult. Talk with her about which one of these she prefers. When she arrives at camp, support her in creating those ties. Once you see she’s connected, say a short good-bye and head out. Parents can unintentionally inhibit the transition by hanging around too long.
Make sure your daughter has a plan for what she’ll do if she feels scared, unsafe, or a bit homesick. Knowing when and how to ask for help are life long skills she’ll be able to generalize to the rest of her life.
If you are interested, you may also want to explore alterative supports such as flower essences. If she worries about you or other family members when she is gone, Red Chestnut can be beneficial. If she feels weepy and homesick, Honeysuckle is a good choice. Bach Flower Essences Rescue Remedy is also helpful to alleviate the anticipatory anxiety that can be overwhelming as the time for camp gets closer. ~These can be for you or her. 🙂
Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.