Camping is one of the most rewarding of all Scouting activities. It can also be challenging in many ways. The next three videos are concentrated around summer & winter camping, and the inevitable homesickness that leaders must deal with. The “Heinz 57” series Is designed to help you get all caught up (ketchup) with critical subjects in Scout leadership.
First time on their own. 2nd or 3rd night at summer camp – Most new Scouts develop self-imposed anxiety or homesickness when a routine has been established and the scout is not occupied with activities. Adult leaders need to be ready for this eventuality. Remember a Scout IS Friendly, Courteous, and Kind and that holds true for the adult leaders too.
Symptoms: Sad, crying, irritable, oversensitive, or acting depressed.Causes: Immature separation anxiety (ISA), self-imposed worrying, and feelings of depression. Treatment: Compassion, understanding, listening skills, reassurance, and time. Buddying up with more experienced scouts helps. Keeping the schedule to a limited downtime. Recovery: Self-reliance, control skills, and mental maturity. Able to handle depression and sadness better.
Before you go: Setting up the right frame of mind will help them cope with homesickness. Parents have the “away talk” before they leave. Don’t tell them that you will miss them… (even if it’s true.) Just don’t bring it up. Reassure the scout will have a good time and it will go by quickly. Soon they will be back home wondering if they ever were at camp. Use words like “adventure” and “exciting” when talking about the upcoming trip. Reassure the scout that chores around the home and pets will be taken care of during the short time they are away. Let the scout know you will be OK and will see them soon. “I can’t wait to hear the great stories of your exciting adventure.”
Sending care packages? – I would only recommend one care package if any. Some parents hide a note in their scout’s packed underwear or shower towel. Some parents go as far as to put money in the envelope. It’s always a big surprise to the scout when they find it and a disappointment when the parents find it in the washing machine after camp. Letters From Home? – It can take some time for letters to arrive at camp. Keep it simple like a card with a signature. Keep the encouragement upbeat. “Missing you” or “wishing you were here” can be devastating. Long letters tend to be read over and become an obsession when scouts are experiencing anxiety and self-created stress.
Calling Home? – This is probably controversial as I believe it causes far more problems than it solves. The scout inevitably surrenders to their homesickness and will beg to go home. Parents will get panicky as often there too far away or do not have enough time to rescue their scout. Or the parent will get upset with the adult leaders for putting them in a situation where they have to tell the scout no. Calling home is the absolute last resort. If this is the only option the adult leader should make a preliminary phone call (without the scout or the scout’s knowledge) and talk with the parents about the situation. Acting on this option of calling home can go terribly wrong in many ways. The scout’s self-esteem and dignity can be damaged. His or her relationship with their parents can be damaged. In many situations, this humiliation can cause the scout to leave scouting completely. I highly do not recommend this option.
Family Day? – If the scout is dealing with homesickness this may turn into an in-person “calling home” situation. Make sure that the adult leadership is aware of any family arriving at camp before their visit.
Cell Phones? – Parents will often have problems with separation and will insist that their scout have a cell phone so that they can communicate during camp. There are many reasons that this can be very problematic. A “free-range” cellphone in camp can quickly get out of control. It’s also defeating the whole point of going to camp.
⚜️ Note: Scout leaders job #1 is Safety. We must also guard the safety of our scout’s self-esteem and dignity. Homesick scout should talk with the adult leaders, not in front of other scouts or “on stage”. The Youth Protection Training (YPT) should always be in mind and used when counseling scouts.