We at Brownies know how stressful a first camp can be! Nerves and anxiety everywhere. To help, I’ve made a list of my top ways parents and Guiders can help to calm homesick and anxious campers.
- Don’t transfer your own anxieties onto your Brownie! Sometimes our own nerves come across pretty clearly. A girl who might not have been nervous might become nervous when she sees your own anxieties! Give her a smile and be reassuring leading up to camp. If she expresses her own nerves, talk through them together.
- Help her pack… but don’t pack for her. Part of the camp experience is gaining a sense of responsibility and independence… and it starts at home! When a Brownie packs her own things, she knows what she brought and where it is. She can take control of herself and will feel more prepared for camp than if you were to simply drop her off with a bag of mystery things lovingly packed by mom.
- Don’t linger at drop-off! The longer you wait around, the harder it becomes for your girl to imagine her new home (for two nights!) without you. See her over to her bunk, give her a hug and kiss, and tell her you’ll see her on Sunday. Then scoot! (She can show you all those things she’s excited about just as easily on Sunday morning.)
- Talk to your Guiders. If your Brownie has expressed some nerves, please tell us. We’ll be on the lookout during camp to make sure she stays as happy as can be.
- Know limits. It’s possible your Brownie really isn’t ready for camp. Only you, together with your Brownie, can make that call! If she really isn’t ready, that’s okay too. We’ll look forward to working with you and with her to get her to that point.
- Watch for isolation. If a Brownie starts to feel excluded and left out, homesickness may start to set in. If you know a girl is susceptible to homesickness, keep an extra special eye on her to make sure she is having fun with the other girls.
- Prepare for bedtime. We all know that the hardest time for a homesick Brownie is bedtime. Talk to the girls a week or two before camp about their bedtime routines. What do they need to fall asleep? Special stuffie? Special blanket? Do they need to have a story read to them or quiet time to read by themselves? Do they listen to music before bed? These are all easy things we can recreate at our camps if we know about them!
- In the moment. When homesickness happens, deal with it calmly. Don’t dismiss her feelings. Listen to anything the girl wants to share, but if she’s not feeling particularly chatty, change the subject. Ask her questions about her stuffie friend, her day at school, or her latest family vacation. The more she talks, the more she will calm down.
- Strategies for stress management. Bring extra stuffies. Our homesick girls get to snuggle with a special friend (the owl from our toadstool, or even a leader’s stuffie!). The extra friend reminds her that she is not alone! Another activity that can work well is to give the girl a sheet of paper and some markers or crayons. Ask her to draw a picture about how she is feeling, or to write a letter to her parents telling them how she feels. Tell her she can keep the drawing under her pillow and give it to mom and dad on Sunday morning when they pick her up.
- Know limits. Sometimes girls really aren’t ready. Know when you can work through a moment of stress, and when you need to call home.
By guest blogger Rachel Collins. Rachel is a Guider in Guelph, Ontario and Chair of the Canadian Guider Editorial Committee. Re-posted with permission from the the blog of the 23rd Guelph Brownies.