When summer begins, millions of children will head to summer camp - eager, excited and ... homesick?

When summer begins, millions of children will head to summer camp - eager, excited and ... homesick?

Research indicates that homesickness is the norm, not the exception. It is common for campers to feel a tinge of homesickness at some point during the camp session. So how can parents help?

By exercising a little preparation and patience, parents can help to ease any homesickness in their otherwise happy campers.

The American Camp Association (ACA) recommends the following 10 tips parents can use to help their children deal with homesickness at camp:

Encourage independence throughout the year. Practicing separations, such as sleepovers at a friend's house, can simulate the camp environment. Involve your child in the process of choosing a camp. The more that a child owns the decision, the more comfortable he or she will feel being at camp. Discuss what camp will be like before your child leaves. Consider role-playing anticipated situations, such as using a flashlight to find the bathroom. Reach an agreement ahead of time on calling each other. If your child's camp has a no-phone-calls policy, honor it. Send a note or care package ahead of time to arrive the first day of camp. Acknowledge, in a positive way, that you will miss your child. For example, you might say, "I am going to miss you, but I know that you will have a good time at camp." Don't bribe. Linking a successful stay at camp to a material object sends the wrong message. The reward should be your child's new-found confidence and independence. Pack a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal. Or try a picture of your family or pets. Avoid the temptation to take a child home early. If a "rescue call" comes from your child, offer calm reassurance and put the time frame into perspective. Talk candidly with the camp director. Get his or her perspective on your child's adjustment. Don't feel guilty about encouraging your child to stay at camp. For many children, camp is a first step toward independence and plays an important role in their growth and development.
Most of all, parents should trust their instincts. While most incidents of homesickness will pass in a day or two, approximately 7 percent of the cases are severe. If your child is not eating or sleeping because of anxiety or depression, parents should work with the camp director and other camp staff to evaluate the situation.

Remember, camp staff are trained to ease homesickness. But don't make your child feel like a failure if his or her stay at camp is cut short. Focus on the positive and encourage your child to try camp again next year.

For more information on homesickness, or expert advice on camp, visit www.CampParents.org. Parents can also receive updates and tips by following ACA on Twitter at twitter.com/ACACampParents.