The First Wednesday and Homesickness

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The first Wednesday of a summer camp session is always a milestone. For those girls who came into camp a bit homesick, they are beginning to turn the corner and are finding moments of great joy at camp. For the girls who have been doing just fine at camp and show up with the first signs of homesickness today, then we find ourselves with a little more challenging case to work through. When we identify a camper with this more tenacious form of homesickness, we will be in touch with you, and we will be a team together to support your daughter.

Homesickness manifests itself primarily at meals, at rest hour, and at bedtime, times when they are most typically surrounded by parents and other family members. The cabin counselors work hard in the evenings to set the girls up for successful sleep. Each camper shares the highs and lows of her day through circle time, and very often, the counselors read out loud to the girls as they drift off to sleep. Nancy Drew Mysteries are still a hot ticket at camp! If a girl truly struggles at night with her homesickness, our counselors have let us know, and we are working as a team to lead your daughter to success.

With meals, the food may be unfamiliar, and the dining hall can be a busy place. We serve very good food, but it is not made to order. You choose what ends up on your plate as you go through the serving line. If you are a picky eater, meals can be a bit challenging, and that might be a little scary if you are young and new to Keystone. The counselors try to make sure the girls understand all of their options at meals, and you will often see a counselor giving a tour of the food choices in the dining hall. Breakfast is typically the easiest meal for everyone as there are several types of breakfast cereal and bagels and cream cheese available each day in addition to the offering on the hot line. Other items always available at breakfast are yogurts, both individual flavored yogurts and plain yogurt, a fresh fruit and a canned fruit. We offer a tremendous amount of choice at each of our meals, but the French fries and chicken fingers only show up once a week, and we swore off white bread a long time ago. When we have pasta dishes, we always have plain pasta available as a choice. Tonight we are having BBQ chicken, scalloped potatoes, roasted broccoli, and sliced baguette bread with red, white and blue cheesecake bars for dessert. Lunch today was a cookout on the green: hamburgers, hotdogs, veggie burgers, pasta salad, and chips. We enjoyed a special 4th of July dessert at lunch: Cheerwine floats. Cheerwine is a cherry type soda unique to the South, and its red coloring looks great next to vanilla ice cream!

We offer a full salad bar at lunch and dinner with salad greens, fresh spinach, assorted raw vegetables, hummus, cottage cheese, black beans, garbanzo beans, feta cheese, sliced turkey, sliced ham, and two types of sliced cheese along with 6 different salad dressings. Our thinking is to offer sandwich options if the main dish does not appeal. Peanut butter and jelly are available at breakfast and lunch each day. Apples and oranges are available throughout the day, and we open the camp store, Tuck Shop, after rest hour for snacks such as popcorn, ice cream sandwiches and peanut butter crackers. Rest hour is a unique challenge in that the girls have just received mail before heading up to their cabins. Mail is a fine balance at camp. You definitely want to write your daughter, but you don’t want to overwhelm her with too much mail. Too many letters and emails can weigh a camper down. It ties her to home and not to camp. Replying to all the emails and letters again focuses her on home and family. Keep the focus of your letters on what she is doing at camp. Ask about friends and activities; comment on things she has been doing in the pictures you have seen on-line. Please DO NOT tell her you miss her. Tell her you love her, that you are proud of her, you are excited for her, etc., but not that you miss her. If you miss her, why is she here?

The summer camp experience is shared by the entire family. Every family member needs to be supportive of the camp experience, from grandparents on down. We want your daughter to succeed at camp, and if we are dealing with homesickness, everyone needs to be focused on helping her conquer these feelings, not to give in to them. Success over homesickness can set a child up for many future successes. She is able to see that feeling insecure, being away from home and being upset can be navigated with the support from others so that she is able to get to a point of security, enjoyment and confidence. Think of how this might play out in college with a semester abroad experience…and so many other experiences life may throw our way!

As I so often tell our campers, if we didn’t know how to help a child through homesickness, there would not be anyone attending camp. We have a good track record at Keystone, and with your support we are very confident that we will make a difference for your daughter. Call us if you need us, and we will do the same. It all comes down to teamwork, the hallmark of summer camp.