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Heading Off Homesickness

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I've been to summer camp several times, and helping kids battle homesickness is an area I do not excel in. Several years ago a kid I allowed to call home ended up punching his ticket home several days early. Sadly, that translated into him becoming less involved in the troop and he dropped out a few months later.

 

Our troop is taking four new boys this year. Does anyone have troop rules or advice on the subject? Please rest assured that we will be keeping the boys busy.

 

Thanks ...

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In my Troop, we encourage the parents NOT to call camp unless it is an emergency. We also discourage the Scouts from calling home unless it is an emergency. We always have a contact person at home and if a Scout forgets something or needs something, I or another adult leader calls the contact person who will call the Scout's home.

 

There is no way I know of to prevent homesickness. It will happen with alot of kids & sometimes is not easy to deal with. I won't send a kid home because he is homesick. I will call the parents before parents night (Wednesday) and explain their son is homesick & encourage them not to let them go home early.

 

Ed Mori

Scoutmaster

Troop 1

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One thing that parents can be encouraged to do is to write their son a letter before the boy goes to camp. That way he gets a letter early in the session.

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1. Convince the troops in your area to cross Webelos over in February so that they have a few weekend campouts under their belts before they go to summer camp.

 

2. At summer camp keep them active, fed, and well rested.

 

3. Talk to each boy every day, check their health, their attitude, take an interest in their activities and tell them what a great job they are doing.

 

4 Make sure thay drink lots of water (among other things it will help prevent muscle cramps), and make sure they are using sun block. (a case of sun burn can ruin a week of camp quickly).

 

My experience has been that home sickness is usually caused from being sick of camp or ill prepared for camp, not from being away from home.

 

hope this helps,

Bob White

 

 

 

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My 11 year old son just joined Boy scouts and went to camp for his first time this summer. It was not only his first camp, it was also his first time away from home. We gave him a calling card and told him he could call when ever needed. He was very homesick ( and dehydrated)on the first day there, but the camp staff was supportive. He called a lot of times during his stay, after the calling card was empty he called collect.

Some boys need the verbal contact with their family when they are away. I don't think that it would have made a difference for the boy in your troop if he would not have called home, it might have even been worst without calling. Some boys can handle it better than others being away from home. Everyone is different. I believe, if they want to call they should call because sometimes a call helps getting over being homesick, it does not always make it worst.

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Well I have always let the boys know where the phone is and tell them to talk to me first about calling to go home. I also strongly stress to parents about homesickness, what not to say to the scout (like " I miss you too!" - guarrantied to come pick him up), but instead to ask about activities, etc. It is also important for the parents to understand that their son needs a goal(s) whether it is a merit badge, etc. (Talk to the SM of camp about what topics would be good for their son first, typically homesick kids will not want to willingly talk about all the fun stuff they do during the day as it hurts their argument to go home).

I also encourage you to use your older scouts as buddies for younger scouts.

This year, with 2-3 scouts, 2 of which had no scouting outing exp. I started the fishing mb with them mid day. The one (actually 2 leaders YP) on one really helped with the boys (no they did not earn the badge yet) and this, I believe, got them to participate in the new scout program in the afternoon.

I had to send one boy home this year. His homesickness, IMHO, was a battle of wills with his mom. She said stay (or "no") and that was not acceptable to this scouts lifestyle. I could have put up with it, but it got to the point of greatly affecting the other 12 new scouts. Even my SPL, who as a young scout was terminally homesick, said to send him home, after exhausting his patience. When this happens, immediately focus on the rest of the group who stays. Get them busy. This year, our first year scouts started all the fires in camps, under older scout supervision, really boosted their confidence. Spent a lot of time on Bravery SM each night. Its a thin line keeping vs. sending home. Most who make the week stay in scouts, but sometimes the experience of staying makes them quit anyway.

make sure the homesick kids are eating and drinking, using latrines. Talk with med officer at camp, let them know your position on staying leaving.

Beware the fake vomiters (yes this kid liked to stick his fingers down his throat, yeah scouting) though was never able to achieve his goal.

Also, a stern line (on Wed.) w/ this scout made all his symptoms disappear, though he still finageled his way home.

Good Luck

There are no easy answers or magic pills. Each kid is different.

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Funny how this topic just came up as Im dealing with that same issue, we just got back from summer camp and last night was our weekly meeting. I discussed it with the PLC and last night I informed everyone that phone calls are NOT allowed during camping trips period. Calling home has never really been allowed but the rule has been relaxed. What weve found out, is over the last year, cell phones and calling cards are common place with calling cards being our biggest problem.

 

Parents are giving their kids calling cards and saying call anytime and this is starting to be a problem. Now, in our troop we had a little incident with one boy calling home and I see it as a time bomb waiting to explode. Also, there was another incident with another troop in camp as well. In our troop I had a 16yr old boy call his girlfriend and he got a dear john call. This happened Wednesday night and his attitude went right in the toilet. What even made matters worse was he was the SPL so the whole troop suffered.

 

What happened, in another troop, a boy with a calling card was calling home and making up stories. It is what I call the electronic version of Hello Mother, Hello Father; you know the song where the kid hates camp so hes telling his parents all kinds of things in a letter. Well, today that can happen instantly over the phone and the kids can leave messages electronically. The parent was one of those parents that believes their kid is always right so, after a few beers, he drives to camp and punches out one of the leaders and camp calls the cops and what a mess.

 

So, last night, I said NO calls home. If you give your kid a calling card it will be taken and returned after the trip. Anyone caught calling home will be disciplined. I wasnt popular with a few parents including my wife, but I said Ive discussed it with the PLC and if you dont like it then Im sorry but the PLC and I have agreed on the rule. Im not going to deal with kids calling home and have problems like the other troop had yet alone homesickness or the dear john call that happened to us.

 

So for me, its not just homesickness, its a time bomb of potentially anything. A lot of kids, especially the first year campers hate camp the first several days from the food to the tent, showers, etc. and theyll call and say anything to get their parents to take them home. Some parents respond others dont. But, not only are you dealing with homesickness, you have kids calling their friends spending hours on the phone which keeps them from doing other activities; calling boyfriend to girlfriend issues etc. Prior to phone cards, kids calling home made it short and sweat as it cost a lot. But, now with pagers, cell phones, calling cards etc. kids can call more readily and talk for hours. I noticed kids in other troops on the phone for over an hour, not just one day but on several days.

 

Now, my wife totally disagrees with me and says they should be allowed to call. Fine, but the SM is the one that has to deal with it during the camping trip and I refuse to expose myself to that. Someday, when theres a new SM, they can work with the PLC and change it. Im refusing to deal with the potential problem.

 

Thanks.

 

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Scoutperson,

 

I think there is a huge difference if a scout is calling his girl friend or if a boy calls his parents. It also depends if that scout is going on his first camping outing or not. My older son called during his first camp also, but not during the second one. Every boy is different, so I believe to forbot to call at all is not the right thing to do. My son would have been miserable not calling at all for a whole week. He was fine after we talked, he wanted to tell me about all the stuff he did, the merit badges and so on. If our SM would have told my son NO CALLS before camp, I would have not let him go. Children need to have that window open to talk to the parents if there is noone else available. My son went with super troop, noone of his troop went.

Congrats to your wife for speaking up.

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Sounds like some of the problems mentioned by ScoutPerson could have been avoided if the SM's had talked to the parents beforehand, giving them the advice we've seen on here about what the parents should and should not say if called from camp. Also, all phone calls should be cleared by the SM first. So the SM knows the scout is calling, can point out some fun things the boy can tell the parents about (keeps the parents calmer) and to follow up with the boy after the phone call.

 

Parents should be able to say if they want they boy to call home or not. I know my son should not call him, it will make him worse. Others know their sons will benefit from a call home. The SM's should talk to the parents before that first summer camp and establish the rules and procedures.

 

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Like I said, some did not like it (like my wife), but in my opinion along with the PLC it cannot be controlled. If a kid becomes homesick, by all means, I would try to work it out and if calling home helped then thats fine and in the past thats what weve done. Sometimes calling helps sometimes it doesnt, but I think when this happens it needs to be monitored appropriately. But, once you give a kid a calling card, he can call anyone and say anything and you do not even know it is going on. Hence my SPL calling his girlfriend and getting the dear john call. Yep, Im sure many people will say they dont like it, along with my wife, but the PLC runs the program and they made the rule and I agree with them especially since they lost out on an award because the SPL did not do his job after the dear john call. We sat down and discussed it and they said kids shouldnt be calling home unless its an emergency. We discussed calling cards, beepers, cell phones etc as all being potential problems their solution was theyre not allowed. I would also like to add that this has been building up over the last year and summer camp was the straw that broke the camels back. Kids have been making comments that all someone wants to do is call and talk to mommy, or talk to so and so and the phone was becoming an annoyance.

 

Ive been running a scout program for over ten years and in my experience calling home is the last resort. We also gradually introduce the kids to the troop their last year of cub scouts so by summer camp theyre beyond the homesick stage. But, it does happen as we get many new scouts. Before calling cards and easy phone access kids would come to me and I would handle it. More often than not, just talking and getting them involved solved it. If a kid has a calling card, they call and the momentum builds before Im even aware of it. By then, little Johnnys parents may even be on their way to pick him up.

 

My wife says the same arguments and voices the opinion about homesick kids. My response is that these are the exception to what Im seeing and those will be handled on a case by case bases, but going forward theres no calling cards or phone calls home unless theres an emergency (or the SM deems it necessary). By making that rule, I can handle the homesickness. Really, the issue is parents, and were back to the same old issue of training. We enforce training but you cannot force parents to get trained, and thats really the issue.

 

As sctmom points out, some of these issues can be resolved by talking to the parents but often its the ones that dont listen or do what they please unless there is a rule in writing. Some would listen and control the issue correctly while others would just not care. Prior to our troop making the rule, NO Additional Snacks allowed on camping trips we would discuss it with the kids and parents and for the most part they used common sense. Then as the membership changes and new members join, soon we were faced with kids bringing all kinds of food for themselves and we would get Im not eating that, I brought my own food.

 

In my opinion, a troop is probably fluid in nature, meaning ever changing. As it changes the rules change. Also, I do believe each troop may and would have different issues therefore resulting in different opinions and rules. Much like the 10 mile per hour speed limit sign in most BSA camps, some obey while others dont. Because some choose not to obey we install speed bumps and soon on.

 

I know I'm not going to win this argument (if you even want to call it that) with those that think it's ok to call. My wife is one of those, so all I can say is from now on I'm not dealing with kids calling home and if she thinks it should happen then I've always got an extra seat and she can come along and deal with it. For me, the PLC made the correct rule and they run the program not her nor do the other parents that disagreed with it.

 

Anyway, I'm sure there's more to come on the subject.

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Scoutperson,

After reading your last post I say I do fully agree and support you. You understand there MAY BE situations where it is good for the child to call home, but only under supervision.

 

The camp my son went to this summer said "only phone in camp is for emergencies". The adult with the cell phone had no signal. The adults also set a good example by not using their cell phones. I did hear that some adults snuck off up the mountain to get a signal -- but away from scouts! Even the most homesick scout can understand the term "emergency" -- means you are seriously injuried or sick. The troop had a couple that had a rough time of it, but made it through the week. The scoutmaster even got pictures of those boys laughing and having a good time. Hopefully that is what they will remember.

 

I think you are right on track! Keep up the good work!

 

 

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You know you make some great points that I had not considered with phone calls, especially the calling cards, girlfriends, etc.

I should clarify that I want the scouts to tell us leaders when they are going to call home and why. I am thinking now that we may have to revisit this rule,as light bulb is dimly lit above my head and the explanation for a full, and I mean full voice mail box on my cell phone is explained. I had 30 minutes of messages from 4 parents at camp and found out that one boy used his dad's 800 # to call home and the rest had calling cards. (Parents where upset that I wasn't calling them back right away, even calling my wife to demand an answer...which as always is no news is good news!)

You are correct also in pointing out parents of today. When I was growing up, my folks only wanted to know where us kids where when it was meal time and bed time, otherwise it was "get out of the house!" Todays parents are much too involved in their kids lives. Yes too involved, let them grow up already, keep an eye on them, trust the people who you entrust to keep on eye on them (this means actually knowing the folks in scouting, not just dropping of junior at the babysitters of america and them call up yelling when the world does not go their sons way) and let them experience failure!, just not total failure. Scouting is supposed to be fun for us adults too and hopefully some moms and dads will realize that we are not their to hinder their kids!

The most precious gifts my parents gave me where love, no matter what, self reliance, the responsibility of my actions, good/bad, the ability to have an imagination (no tv, etc. in the summer) and independence and all of that resulted in self esteem, not the other way around. And just so you don't think I'm that old a person, I am only in my late 30's.

Loving Life

J

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The summer camp my Troop attends (Heritage Reservation) has two publis phones in each camp. One is for leader use only & the other is for the Scouts & staff. If a Scout wants to use the phone, he must have a leader from his Troop with him. Leader, not parent. I have always liked this rule since it discourages the Scouts form calling home or anywhere else.

 

Ed Mori

Scoutmaster

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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