Home Again – How to Navigate the Transition from Camp

Gregory Keer

Remember when you worried that your child might get homesick at camp? That the separation from family, Snapchat, and all that was familiar would keep your kiddo from enjoying camp to the fullest?

Those concerns are now a distant whisper, especially now that your child’s return is around the corner and what might might have started as tentative for some has become a full-fledged session of experiences.

So, how can you get ready for you kid’s return to help her or him make the transition back?

    1. Whether you pick your child up from a local drop-off or at camp, the initial reunion could go in any number of ways. Your kid might be so thrilled to see you that she screams and hugs and kisses you and any family members who pick her up as if it’s been 10 years, rather than a few weeks of separation. It’s also possible that your camper could be a tad distant or even grumpy since she feels sad to leave Ramah. Be it one extreme or the other, or something in between, be ready to give your child some time to acclimate.
    2. Next, there’s the debriefing approach to consider.Again, depending on how your child feels, let him lead you into the reflective conversation. He might launch into every detail you couple possibly want to know, or he could get quiet in the car or at home. If there’s quiet or some resistance to talking, keep the questions simple, such as, “What were two or three favorite things you did in the last couple of days?” In this way, you are asking him to recall something recent, rather than having him mine his memory. Another discussion starter is to reference something positive he said in a letter home. Starting with the positive is best, and you can always delve into anything he might want to vent about later, when he is ready.
    3. The first family dinner of her return is another important prepping point. This should be an intimate affair, unless you’re sure your child wants a big shebang. WIth a smaller group, the chances are better for her to warm up to talking or to continue telling her stories to an attentive audience. Having favorite foods is a bit of advice I hardly need to give to a Jewish family, but it certainly helps to have familiar items to help her settle back at home.
    4. Some kids do experience “campsickness,” which involves missing all the good stuff at camp, but makes for a sullen kid at home. Don’t fret too much that your child has suddenly decided he hates being at home. This period will pass, but it is largely a positive sign that he made deep connections and benefited from his freedom and opportunity for growth. Give him a chance to call, text, and Skype friends, maybe even have him make a plan with a local co-camper in a day or two or the earliest opportunity.
    5. Have your child teach you a few things she’s learned at camp. This is one way to bridge the gap from camp to home as she guides you through songs she loved, cooks a meal with you she might’ve made on a tiyul, or tells you a story she heard at night in her bunk.

You can take any number of these suggestions, but do know that it’s likely the download of all that happened at camp is likely to continue in some way over weeks if not months. However it happens, enjoy the reflection. We hope it leads to much more in the years to come.

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