My oldest DD is almost 9 years old... for almost 1.5 years, she has been super excited about the idea of going to sleep away camp for a week. In fact, she joined Girl Scouts this year in order to be "ready" for a week at the overnight camp. Long story short, she went to their day camp week prior and LOVED it. The camp offered an optional one night sleep over and she was absolutely definite that she wanted to go, and seemed to have a great time.
The following week was her week at the same camp for a week (5 nights). It is a super rustic type camp... sleep in elevated tents, bathroom is a short walk through the woods etc. She never seemed anxious or unhappy at all as we packed her up, dropped her off etc. This was her first time away at camp, but has done multiple nights away at friends' houses, and has traveled with my in-laws for a week when she was 7.
After being back for a day or two, she seemed extremely weepy and emotional. We talked for quite a while, and it came out that she was super homesick at camp and was really upset about it. I've done all I can think of to be supportive... listening to her feelings, trying to imagine and empathize with the extent of her feelings (such as be letting her know that it would be OK if she was also angry that Daddy and I hadn't come to "save her" although her brain knew that we were't aware of what was going on); assured her that sleep-away camp was NOT a requirement and that she never had to go again, assured her that IF she ever wanted to go again we would do more research to find a camp that was a better match; pointed out that, despite the struggle, she was resilient and positive and made friends/learned new things etc; and when she is open to it, joked gently about the idea of sleep away camp (she seems to like this a lot when she starts it and I join in...). We agreed that she would like to "tear up" the cards I'd had the counselor give to her every day because it would help her "erase" the memory. Mostly I've been listening, hugging, and when she needs it, helping her find ways to manage the feelings (such as finding something to occupy her mind if she is not in a place where I am accessible to give comfort).
Anyone have any other suggestions for what I can do to make her feel better? Just ride it out? I feel really bad for her. Also, she eventually told me that she'd known after the practice overnight that she didn't want to go, but didn't tell us because she "didn't think there was anything we could do". DH and I have told her that she can always come to us with any situation, even if it was something awful, even if it was something she had done wrong, even if she couldn't imagine us being able to help... because we'd ALWAYS do or best to help. I just hate to see my usually very happy and confident child so shaken