Tell me about homesickness, calls home from camp, etc.

All my kids are away at summer camp now. One of the mysteries of this whole process is that summer camps seem to universally agree that the kids shouldn’t be calling home. So if they all agree, I accept that they are correct.

But why is that? What would happen if kids could bring their cell phones and call home once a day? I’m not arguing, just wondering what are the problems that are bound to occur.

I ask because I’ve had some interesting emotional experiences with my youngest son over this. Hard to articulate exactly what happened but visiting day last summer definitely stirred some things up. Likewise he had some computer access earlier this summer and sent a few IMs. Also seemed to stir stuff up.

I’d be interested in hearing any experiences, thoughts, etc.

Well back in my day, kids didn’t have cell phones, but the rule was still the same - no calls home unless it was an emergency. You could write though. Pretty much the homesickness thing goes away after the first day once you have met your cabinmates and have settled into your new routine.

I think the rationale is that camp is supposed to take kids out of their regular environment and put them in the “camp” environment of nature, team activities and rustic charm. Calling home to mommy every day is a distraction and IMHO, does not teach children to be self reliant.

Calling home every day isn’t a good thing. Like mssmith said, the “camp” experience includes BEING AWAY FROM HOME.

Write to your kids every day if you want. Getting mail is awesome and acceptable.

Me - I was a total weenie at stay-away camps. Faked illnesses, psychosomatic illnesses (ie making myself actually throw up), crying, moping. And this was on 2-night stays with my Girl Scout Troop - girls I knew! If I’d had a cell phone I wouldn’t have been able to stick it out.

Calling home every day - just not what camp is all about.

I tried to go to Girl Scout Camp (age 8ish). It was fine during the day but the overnight trip was not going to happen. I just missed my house and my family and I refused to go to the bathroom in an outhouse…I faked a stomach issue and forced my dad drive the hour + trip to come get me. I never had to go again.

I also went to Soap Box Derby camp (age 12ish) which was out of state. My parents and sister were in a hotel in the city and I was at sleep-away camp. It was “fun”, but I did not want to sleep away…in a cot…and a scratchy blanket with people I didn’t know. It was a bit easier knowing my parents were in a hotel and not at home, but I did not contact them the whole week. I toughed it out. If I had a phone and could talk to my mom, I don’t think I would have been able to get through it. I think you have to give yourself over to the camp experience, to see the camp guides as the ones in charge and they ones that you look to for guidance (not mom or dad). Almost like suspending your belief for a while. I think most kids would want to call home or call their bestest friends and such, instead of experiencing what is right in front of them…Ohh…I just had the image of all the people calling on their cellphones during baseball games…WATCH the game, don’t call your friends to tell them you are at the game…something along those lines.

But, I am a spoiled, scared person at heart…which is why I would never camp again, that and my parents knew I’d never make it through the night…but your kids might just go off and have a great time. I’d give them a journal or something to write in or maybe pack little packages or cards from you that they can open at certain times/days when they are lonely.

Hah!! We must be camp twins!! I remember having to breathe into a paper bag from Hyperventilation when I found out about the outhouses and the lack of sinks to wash your hands with. And that we had to grill our own food. Yuck. I wanted pizza.

Thanks for the responses so far.

I’m wondering if anyone did call home or saw parents on visiting day and lived to regret it.

I spent 15 years working in summer camps and school outdoor education camps, most of that time as the director. The “no calls home” rule was one I strictly enforced, with very rare exceptions.

No offence the the other posters here who admit to having had a hard time, but in my experience the homesick kids were the ones with the least self esteem. Sometimes the apron strings were too tight, sometimes they just didn’t have the self confidence, but there was always some reason for it.

On the few occasions when I gave in to pressure from a teacher or someone who didn’t understand the psychology of the situation, the nearly inevitable result of a call home was a collapse into histeria and the kid going home from camp early. Never in my entire experience did a phone call actually cure homesickness.

But the kids who I talked with about finding the strength in themselves to stick around and overcome their homesickness (sometimes it was a daily conversation) were the ones who were crying the hardest when it was time to go home because they had such a good time and don’t want it to be over.

The other really important issue is that if there’s a real problem, their counselor needs to know about it. If a kid with a problem calls home instead of talking to their counselor, the problem doesn’t get dealt with. And if an irate parent calls camp to complain about something when their kid only told them one side of the story, that causes all sorts of unnecessary stress and headaches.

Then there’s the logistics – even with cell phones, how many camps are in areas where there is cell phone reception? If there’s just one phone line in camp, and each of 200 campers is allowed a single 10-minute phone call, you’re talking over 33 hours of total time on the phone. I just can’t be done.

So that’s why.

Totally agree wit the poster above.

I started going away to sleepaway camp at Age 8 (6 weeks, at the same camp as my brother). I switched to a new camp without my brother and continued to stay the whole summer (8 weeks) every year until at age 18 I was a full counsellor at the same camp. I loved every second of it and would cry and cry on Leaving Day. That camp was like a second home to me.

Let it suffice to say that I was never homesick in the least, except I did miss my cat. (actually I think my letters got my parents a little down: “I am having fun, do I have to come home? How’s the cat? Bye!”)

My camp had a visiting day about 1/2 way through and they would always specifically schedule a large fun activity (usually it was a kind of counsellors skit show) to distract the kids on that night. Inevitably there would be a lot of sad kids and a resurgence of homesickness. In general, parents tend to – usually unknowingly – encourage rather than discourage these feelings (it makes them feel wanted/needed, IMHO) so calls or direct contact leads to MORE sad feelings, not less.

One year when I was 14 I broke my wrist at camp and they allowed me to call home. (I didn’t go home, I finished out the summer in a cast). Even with all my years of non-homesickness, when I heard my mom’s voice I started to cry. Why exactly? I just don’t know.

Staying at camp gave me independence. And I went to as many as I could, Hindu camp, Girl Scout camp, anything I was allowed to.

Call home every day? Are you kidding? I never even wanted to *go * home, let alone call home. Camp is supposed to be the first time you leave your parents and live somewhere else for a time, without them. And yes, the kids who called home and needed to go home were the ones with self-esteem issues. I don’t mean any offense, either, just the way it was.

Hmmmm, I really really wanted to go home but it wasn’t a self esteem thing. My parents raised me very liberally and took a very laid-back approach to parenting whereas the camp leaders were very strict and conservative. I was too young to understand why what I was doing wasn’t right (according to them I was cheeky, rude, had a big mouth etc.) and why they didn’t like me when I was behaving the way I was used to. I felt like an alien.

Don’t think calling home would have helped or hindered, though.

And I understand most kids like camps, so you may disregard me as the exception case in that respect.

I went to Boy Scout camp when I was like, 10 or so at it totally sucked. Everything was a 30 minute hike from everywhere else. We had to sleep in army surplus canvas tents on wooden platforms that leaked when it rained (which it did the entire week) and shit in a ditch. Even that had some fun moments but I was glad it was only a week.

When my parents picked me up and told me my brother and I were going to some snooty camp in MA for FOUR WEEKS I nearly shit myself.

Fortunately that was the Hamptons compared to BS camp - Wooden cabins, public latrines with running water and showers, a real dining hall.

I thought that it would completely suck but it ended up being a lot of fun. It was certainly better than the alternative - wandering around aimlessly on bikes and skateboards in my hometown.

Went to ‘military’ camp for 6 weeks every summer from 14-17 (Canadian Dopers - it was Army Cadet camp). We had payphones set up near the cadet canteen, about 5 for 500+ kids. And since you were a kid with no money whatsoever, you always had to call collect. So it worked out that if you wanted to call home, you had to spend 2-3 hours standing in line being eaten alive by mosquitos.

I think I made one call per summer to my parents, just to let them hear my/hear their voice and the rest was by letter. Never experienced any frantic homesickness, nor did I see any.

hahaha…nah, not me. I was hip to the camping part. I can handle latrienes, crappy food, hiking. All that stuff was fun.

Being away from mommy and my dog were my problems. They still are - 26 and still at home :wink:

I would think calling home would just prolong the homesickness. My first time at girl scout camp I was homesick for about a day and a half but then got into being at camp because I knew I couldn’t call home. Sort of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Two other girls never got over it, they’d feel homesick, focus on calling home and work themselves into a lather until they were allowed to call. After the call they’d cry and then the whole thing would start over. They were sort of like junkies.

I went to summer camp for months at a time from ages 5 to 15. There were payphones and at designated times you could line up and make collect calls home, but this was more like a once a week occurance (and not required.) I do find it a little strange that a camp would forbid all non-emergency phone contact, though.

I usually stuck to writing letters. (But only when they made us.) I never really had much of a problem being away from home at all. Probably one of the reasons I decided to go to boarding school too.

I feel so old, and I’m only 23! These kids these days with their “cell phones” and “Internet access” at summer camp! Why, in my day we slept in teepees and peed in outhouses and I ain’t heard no one complaining about it because they was all too busy running from bears and mining coal!

I don’t agree that they shouldn’t let kids call home, but I guess I can see their reasoning. For example, when a person breaks up with an ex-boyfriend and talks to him every day, it’s a lot harder to get over him than if she cuts him out of her life. This hypothetical ‘she’ is actually me, but I’ve seen it happening to others. When I broke up with my first boyfriend, I became pretty clingy and waited to talk to him each day to ‘ease myself’. Of course that was the bad way to do it because I only got more dependant on him for my happiness! Maybe they figure that the kids will be lonely, and they will start depending on talking to their parents for happiness, rather than finding it at camp with a little work.