I’d only send a homesick young person home as a very very last resort and that’s after trying every trick in the book. But sometimes the best thing for both young person, leaders and the rest of the young people on camp is to send that home sick child home.
But what are those “Tricks of the Trade” for dealing with a homesick child?
My strategy is of course dependant on the young person and varies from completely ignoring it, let’s try and close your eyes and sleep and see how you feel in the morning to lies like “Well OK, but it’ll take mum/dad about 5 hours to get there due to traffic, so you may as well go to bed now and we’ll sort in the morning” and in the morning guess what, no issues and nobody mentions it.
Another thing I really try to avoid is let the young person call home as this often makes the situation worse after speaking to their parent. An excuse I’ve used in the past is so say a little white lie and say there is no phone coverage at the campsite and will try a bit later.
I’ve also read that sometimes is not Homesickness. In some cases it’s actually panic attacks and happening at bedtime, when they are lying in their sleeping bags and tent, everyone one else in their tent is sound asleep apart from themselves and they are wide awake and can hear scary noises outside their tent, when its actually from the wind, wildlife, trees etc. If the young person comes out of their tent and comes to speak to you or another leader, ask them about why there upset, sometimes it’s because of a change of their normal bedtime routine. Maybe making them a nice warm Hot chocolate to comfort them will help and some reassurance that everything will be OK.
Keeping the young person busy & giving them important jobs to do really helps. For example the Saturday evening meal time–get them to help prep the food, or laying the table, sort out the cutlery .
Plan a full and varied programme
This may sound obvious but it is important to try to include activities that all young people can do well at, if a young person is last or worst at everything they are likely to feel more homesick.
Keep a careful eye out for bullying – obviously bullying is never acceptable in Scouting, but it will always increase the incidence of homesickness.
Ensure the toilet facilities are as good as possible – toilets on camp are not as ‘user friendly’ as home so ensure they are as clean as you can make them. Not being able to use the loo makes for a very unpleasant camp.
Make sure that everyone has enough to eat – hunger not only causes homesickness but isn’t nice for anyone, the food on camp can be completely different to what the young person who normally eat at home. An unusual tip that I was told about as bizarre as it may sound, is to try to ensure that there is always plenty of bread and jam around so if their really hungry they can eat. Whilst we should always try to feed the young people a balanced diet they will get more nutrition from food they eat thant he food they don’t. They won’t suffer malnutrition from weekend Scout Camp.
Use your Patrol Leaders – that’s what they’re there for. Ask them to keep an eye on the younger children and inform you of any problem, get them to ensure that everyone is involved in everything.
Whilst sat around the evening campfire, discuss how each young person on the camp is enjoying him/herself. Remember, the PL’s are much closer to the Scouts than you are, so ask them for idea’s if you have a problem.
I think it is vital that you revisit a homesick child when they are enjoying themselves & make a connection between not going home & having a great time.
Positive reassurance is a must
At the end of the day it can be very traumatic and an awful feeling of doom for that individual young person suffering from home sickness and you dont want them to be scared for all their scouting time. So giving positive reassurance is a must I would say.
What other bits of advice would you give for dealing with a Homesick Young Person?