Camp is right around the corner. Are you – and your kid – ready?
In the weeks leading up to departure for sleep-away camp, parents tend to focus most on the physical preparations. Making sure you have the clothing and supplies listed on the camp’s packing list, completing all of the necessary forms, and figuring out the location of that darn bus stop are tasks that seem foremost.
I’ve written tips and reminders to make these tasks go more smoothly and help avoid night-before-camp panic attacks. Specifically, I’ve advised parents to:
• Order clothing labels early (I recommend the stick-on kind!)
• Look at the packing list (some items may be hard to find this time of year)
• Make an appointment for your child’s physical (if the camp requires the doctor to complete a physical examination form)
• Plan for some down time (make sure your calendar isn’t so full leading up to camp so that your child won’t be exhausted before he/she leaves!)
• If your camp has an online system where photos are uploaded, figure out how to use it before your camper leaves.
But there’s an emotional component to getting ready for camp that is equally important. How are you feeling about your child being away from you for a week (or longer in the case of many traditional camps)? How is your child doing with pre-camp nerves? Are either of you second-guessing the decision to go to camp this summer?
You’re not alone. All parents – even ones like me who have years of experience sending children off to camp and other adventures away from us – can’t help but have some fears and worries before letting our children go to a new place on their own.
Countdown to Camp: How to Get Yourself and Your Kid Ready!
Here are some ideas for helping you and your camper get emotionally ready for being apart this summer:
You’re nervous. Your kid’s nervous. But your child needs to hear from you that you are confident in their ability to have a great experience at camp. Don’t let them overhear you say to a friend, “I’m just not sure if she’s ready for camp.” It’s okay to let your child know that it may be challenging at times, but that you are confident he will be fine at camp. If you have an especially anxious camper, you may want to read my post Messages for an Anxious Camper.
Focus on the excitement
Remember back when you signed up for camp months ago? Look at the pictures and videos from the camp again and talk about what your camper is most looking forward to. Let your camper know that you wish you could go do some of those fun things yourself. Do you have a family friend who’s been to the camp? Invite them over to share their stories!
Talk about homesickness
Some kids are blind-sided by feelings of homesickness when they get to camp. Talking about it with parents ahead of time can be helpful, because kids then know that it’s okay for them to have those feelings. By normalizing feelings of homesickness, you will help your child understand that it’s okay to feel that way AND that you know they will be able to overcome those feelings and have fun.
Talk about how you’ll communicate
Many camps don’t allow campers to have their phones or other devices at camp. Being unplugged, I believe, is one of the most awesome things about being a camper. But this may be — for both of you — the first time you have had the digital connection of a phone to stay in touch via text and calls. Talk about how you WILL communicate while your child is at camp. Will you be writing postcards and letters to each other? Talk about how much you’ll look forward to checking the mailbox each day!
Each child is different in how they approach sleep-away camp. Some seven year olds jump on the bus to camp, barely looking back at parents. Others are visibly nervous and upset as they say their good-byes. As a parent, acknowledge your child’s feelings and let them know that you’ll be rooting for them at home. A wave and a smile should be the last thing they see, so hold your tears until after the bus has pulled away!
Audrey Monke has been a summer camp director for more than 30 years. She writes about summer camp and parenting at Sunshine Parenting and has a forthcoming book, Happy Camper, about parenting secrets she’s learned at summer camp. Visit her website for more articles and information about camp, including how to decide the best age for your child to go to camp!