Homesick Son at Church Camp

Updated on June 20, 2008
L. asks from Omaha, NE
12 answers

Our 10 year old is away a a 5 day church camp a little more than an hour from home. He called tonight (Monday)in tears telling us he doesn't like it and he wants to come home. We asked what kinds of things he did and who he spent time with, etc. He's not a big talker anyway and didn't share a lot. We couldn't get a good read on the situation from him or the dean of the camp. We encouraged him that there would be new activities and such coming up that he wouldn't want to miss out on, but he insisted that he didn't want to stay. We informed him that we weren't driving up that night and we'd like him to try the activities the next day and see if he couldn't make it. He continued to whimper and asked us to come get him. My husband gave him the impression we would try to come get him, but I feel like we're rescuing too soon. This is an anxious, introverted boy, but he was NOT forced or coerced into this. We asked and he said yes; he was excited getting his bag packed and otherwise preparing for the trip. HELP! I really think this will be a great experience if he will give it a chance. Anyone have similar situation and can share a success story? Please pray.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

We spoke to the dean again the next morning and informed him that our intention was that our son should stay and now that the staff knew a little more about him, they would do everything they could to help him feel comfortable. So, I expected to hear a report later in the day and when we hadn't heard anything by 9 pm, I thought "no news is good news." We called and left a message with the dean to get an update and he called us back later telling us our son seemed to be having a good time every time he saw or spoke to him during the day and the last time he saw him he was happily getting his bug spray on, getting his flashlight and heading to the campfire. "Phew, he's gonna make it," I thought as I relaxed and watched some TV before I headed to bed, only to hear the phone ring once again and answer to a tearful boy saying, "I still want to come home." We talked to him for quite a while trying to reassure him and telling him that the only time he was struggling was at night and tried to come up with strategies to help. We weren't able to calm him, however, and finally after telling him that it was too late for us to come that night, his dad asked "what if I came up and visited tomorrow?" To which our son responded, "I would like that, but I still would want to come home." So...I think he will be returning home this evening. It's unfortunate that he'll miss out on the last couple of days, but we didn't know what else to do and I hope that he will not feel discouraged from trying another (or the same) camp next summer. Thanks for all your input!

Featured Answers



answers from Minneapolis on

I would pick him up. The same thing happened to me as a child. I was also introverted and anxious. I really appreciated it when my mom picked me up. I went camping a different time with my cousin's daughter and had a great time.

More Answers



answers from Omaha on

This is a reply from my 14 year old daughter - who has experienced being gone at camp!

Hi my name is Taylor. First of all - I'm surprised they let him call. When I first started going to camp - even though I was very homesick - I couldn't call my parents. They wanted me to just give the first few days a try. The first time I went - I felt the same way too. Excited to go, but then when you're actually there - it was very scary and I was very homesick. I made friends with my counselor and all the people in my cabin. That made it a lot better! The first few days were hard - but it really got better as the week went on and I got to know the other kids. The food wasn't very good - but we did so many other activities that I didn't worry about that too much. I now go to camp every year - and LOVE it! In fact last summer I went 2 times! But I still don't like the food! Our camp let us get mail and e-mail. Everyone in my family made sure to send me some sort of mail every day and even included pictures of pets and freinds. This really helped a lot.

So really my advice is to not to get all upset and don't go get him. Once he is through the first day, the hardest part is over. And then he will find he doesn't want to come home on the last day - because he's made so many new friends!

Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

It's too bad they let the kids make phone calls L.. Most camps don't and then the kids have an easier time (not harder) dealing with their feelings. A good camp counselor (I used to be one) can make the difference between a good experience and a bad one.

I would call the camp director and ask why your son is so unhappy. Ask them who the counselor is and find out what they are doing to comfort your son. Make a stink ~ they do NOT want to lose you as a customer. His counselor needs to take extra time and energy to see to it that your son has a good experience there.

Then, let your son know that he DOES have to stay at camp to the end of the week but that he never has to go back after this session.
Tell him that you know that he can make it.
Stop giving him permission to call home.

YOU can check in with the Camp Director every day if you want to ensure that all is well.

99% of homesick campers have a great time when they reflect on their experience. Both of my girls have gone to overnight camp starting at the age of 7. They admit that they cried themselves to sleep, but they also insisted on going back the next year!

Take it in stride L.. This will be a growing experience for him as long as he is safe there. Verify with the Director that he is safe and that they are doing everything they can to cheer him up. Then let go. He'll be fine.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Des Moines on

Hi L.,

I was a homesick kid at camp when I was a kid, but I stuck it out under the guidance of counselors at camp and ended up being a "lifer" for camp - going to 7 years in a row and then being a counselor for 2 years in college. One, I wish the camp had a rule that the kids couldn't call home unless it was an emergency. At both camps I have experience with (one a church camp I attended, the other a general overnight camp where I worked) it was policy that kids weren't allowed to use the telephone unless is was an emergency (injury, death in the family, etc.). A lot of times, just knowing that avenue exists can exasperate the problem. Perhaps you can speak with the dean of the camp about this and ask their opinion was well.

When I had homesick campers, I would often flip their feelings to the positive and tell them how lucky they were to have parents that love them so much that it would cause miss them and be sad. We would then talk about what their parents wished for them would be for their time at camp - making friends, trying new things, etc. You could also assure your son that you'll call to check with the dean each day so he knows your checking up on him without actually talking to him and bring about the homesick feelings again.

I completely agree and have witnessed MANY times the HUGE benefits camp has for ALL kids and I'm sure this experience of independence is very beneficial for him, so I hope you all stick it out. More than likely, you and he will be glad you did!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lincoln on

If the dean of the camp didn't have any advice for you, I would pick him up...Not every child is ready for an overnight camp at the same time...He has stayed one night...Talk to him today and see what he says after a morning back in it...If he still wants to come home, bring him home...It doesn't matter what he is uncomfortable with, he is not happy and you need to respect his feelings. It would be horrible to have him never want to do camp again, due to a bad camp experience now...

Bring him home and love him...




answers from Eau Claire on

My son is a counselor at a summer camp and I have a 10 year old. Homesickness the first day or two is really normal. The counselors are trained in how to handle it. My guess is that by the end of the week he won't even remember why he was so upset and all he'll talk about is going back next year. Hang in there and know that this is probably harder on you than it is on him!



answers from Minneapolis on

I also was a camp counselor and a camper for many years. Like with everything, being your childs advocate is important. I agree, call the director let them know what is happening and alert your son's counselor they might not know he was so homesick.

Bedtime is by far the worse time at camp for the kids because they have time to reflect on the day and the cabin is a very strange place to try and go to sleep. Make sure there is at least one counselor in the cabin when the kids are trying to go to sleep. That counselor should make themselves known - ie sitting in the corner reading, doing paperwork (making just a little noise). I always use to read to the whole cabin so the time between in bed and sleep was shorter. If the counselor is doing there job - those kids are exhausted. They also are out of routine bedtime at home so reading started the routine at camp. (I also gave hugs/warm fuzzy's but I had younger girls.) I also know that counselors can't wait to get out of the cabin at bedtime - oh for many reasons - so make sure supervision is good. He will have a blast - I was in the boundry waters at 17 and homesick - thought something "bad" was going to happen to my Dad and I won't be there. Best camping experience of my life. He will have fun. P.



answers from Minneapolis on

I'd give it a few more days. If he's still acting like this mid-week go get him.



answers from Omaha on

just have a second this morning but you may email if you have more ?s

my son has anxiety attacks that started when he was about 5. we didnt know what they were forever.

he use to be away from us and try new things all the time then wham! got nervous about it.

if possible go with him. i joined boy scouts as an asst scout master so it wouldnt be like he was a mamas boy. i went to the campouts-- even the week long one in summer. made a world of difference.

i agree- he will enjoy it- you know your child- you decide how far to let him go at it alone.



answers from St. Cloud on

I used to be that shy, introverted child at church camp who would call wanting to go home the first day. Trust me, let him stay and he will have a blast and not want to come home on the last day. The first two days are always the toughest when you aren't used to being away from home...but then you get involved and meet people and all the fun really starts. Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

Don't go get him. If he made the choice to go he needs to see it through, even if he doesn't like it. He doesn't have to go back again. Completing what we start, even when it is uncomfortable, is not a skill our society teaches much anymore, but it is necessary for a healthy, other-centered life. Be kind but firm, and tell him you will be praying for him to find something enjoyable about camp, but in the meantime, perseverance is a character trait you want him to develop, and this is the perfect opportunity.

SAHM of seven



answers from Minneapolis on

I know this is late and you've made your decision, but for future camp experiences there was an article in the Wednesday, June 18 edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune about this very issue. I think it was in the Source section. It contained advice for preparing the child for camp and how to handle the homesickness issues. It seemed to be a helpful article and contained advice from former campers. You can probably find the article on line if you don't have the newspaper.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches