Every summer, all across America, parents put their children on buses bound for sleepaway camp. They wave good-bye, hoping their kids will have a wonderful time, make friends, learn new skills and come home happy and healthy. Hoping, sometimes, that the tears they see as the bus pulls away are just a fleeting show of regret at leaving home.
But what if the tears are not fleeting? What if the child continues to feel real emotional distress – even begs to come home?
Parents deal with the homesickness dilemma in various ways. Not wanting their child to miss out on memorable experiences, they may take the role of cheerleader: “Just go back to your bunk and try to have fun – You’ll feel much better once you get used to it!” Or they may speak to the counselor and staff or bribe the child with rewards to come. As a last resort, they may give in and bring the child home.
Homesickness may in fact be just a melancholy feeling that passes in a few days or it may be traumatic enough that it leaves an emotional scar that shows up years later.
From the child’s point of view, homesickness can give rise to many different feelings. They may feel shame – “What if the bunk finds out and makes fun of me?” They may feel that something is wrong with them, since all the other kids seem to be having fun and they are not. Having feelings of being abandoned, with no one to turn to about their feelings or guilty because their parents have sacrificed to pay for camp, are also common.
With EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), an emotional healing technique that was developed over the last twenty years, parents can help their children overcome their fears. If the child really wants to go to camp, but is afraid, then a couple of sessions with a trained EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) practitioner can make a world of difference.
I’ve worked with a number of children who faced the camp dilemma- of wanting to go, yet afraid to go and wanting to stay home. Some have crying spells or stomach tension in the weeks before camp.
EFT is based on the idea that negative emotions create energy disruptions in the body, and that these energy disruptions can be resolved through gentle tapping on energy points on the body while the person verbally reframes their experience. Since tapping goes to the physical core of the emotional issue, it is much more effective than verbalization or affirmations alone. In other words, we may not be able to talk ourselves out of feeling bad, but we can ‘tap’ ourselves out of it.
One young boy I worked with would be fine all day as he was packing for camp, but cried himself to sleep at night. After the EFT session I assured him that we would touch bases by phone every night for five minutes in the days leading up to camp. Two nights later, I asked how he was doing and he innocently asked, “about what?”
When I reminded him of the nightly crying spells, he said, “Oh that, I totally forgot about it ”
Sometimes a mother will join in a three-way call with their child from camp. The child is choked up and doesn’t know what to do with his emotions. Yet, often, after a short phone session the child says something like, “I really don’t have time to stay on the phone- I don’t want to miss the next activity.” After learning what to do, a parent can get on the phone and tap with the child.
Homesickness is not always devastating, but why take the chance or allow a child to be miserable when such an easy remedy is available? Needless to say, a dangerous or unwholesome situation cannot be “tapped away” but must be addressed appropriately by the parents. But assuming that the environment is a good one, a couple of “tapping sessions” with some telephone follow-up, if needed, can help ensure an enjoyable – homesick-free – summer for most children.
Sara Tova Best is a certified EFT practitioner, lifecoach and speaker specializing in Torah-based coaching and healing work. Contact her at Lifecoach613@gmail.com or 917-557-5938, or visit her website TheLadderToFreedom.com