Like college students heading home from school, children returning home from camp have a big adjustment ahead. Sometimes, re-entry can become…rocky. It’s not just kids getting used to living back under our roof; we parents likely miss our break from driving and dinner duty.
TLMN contributor Dr. Reon Baird-Feldman says this bumpy return to the routine is both normal and expected: “Kids are returning home from an environment full of routine and structure from the moment they wake up until it’s time to go to sleep.” That’s a lot of stimulation that’s gone overnight.
Dr. Baird-Feldman says the huge shift back at home can create boredom, a penchant for pushing boundaries, and even anxiety.
Melissa Post, one of the two moms behind Westport Moms, agrees that coming home can certainly be tricky after a month and half of fun. Each summer her three children – twin girls who are 11 and a son who is 8 – go to camp for about 6 weeks. Melissa says, “They are really not used to downtime when they get home as they are so busy all summer, so getting comfortable with quiet, and reading a book or just playing independently can take some work.”
Sound familiar? Some small tweaks can make all the difference, accordingly to Dr. Baird-Feldman.
Here, she shares four ways to reconsider how you face your child’s homecoming.
Allow your kids more independence. They’ve been away from home and may have gained greater confidence in themselves. Provide space for them to create activities and make decisions for themselves, or just to relax. Camp life is busy! Providing them with space often allows them the freedom and choice to get closer to us as parents.
Try not to bombard your child with questions. Allow time for them to process and share details of their camp experience. As days pass, your child’s brain may be consolidating memories from their camp experiences. Small stimuli at home could also jog specific memories over time. It’s natural to be curious about their experience and while asking questions is a method of expressing care and curiosity, allow space and time for your child to adjust to being back home.
Provide options to connect with camp friends (ex. FaceTime, email). Your child may miss their bunkmate or new friends from camp. Allow ways for them to reconnect so that friendship bonds continue to grow which lends to a sense of belonging and happiness.
Validate their varied emotions (e.g., “camp-sick,” sadness, anxiety, moodiness). Much like homesickness, your child may present with intense sadness and loss related to missing camp, aka campsickness, or moodiness due to the change in routine, activity and surroundings related to camp. Look at this as another moment in parenting to meet children where they are.