By Christina Cannon
While going to a summer camp will be fun for your child, the majority of children who attend camp experience some level of anxiety and may feel homesick. Use the following tips and tricks, both before and during their time at camp, to help your little one enjoy the wonderful experiences camps have to offer.
1. Involve your child in the decision.
Letting your child be involved in the process of choosing a camp to attend will likely have an impact on how adaptable they will be. The more ownership they have in the decision-making process, the more comfortable they will be.
2. Visit the camp prior to the session starting.
Many camps host open houses where parents and children can see the facilities and meet camp counselors. Taking advantage of these opportunities could mean the difference between your child being excited or apprehensive to attend camp. Even if the camp you selected doesn’t provide an open house, many camps will still let parents and children come by for a quick sneak peek
3. Have your child practice spending time away from home.
If your child is anxious to spend time away, have them practice by staying with family or friends for periodic sleepovers. This can help them develop their independence while still providing them with some familiarity.
4. Make a pact with your child that they’ll stick it out.
Let your child know before they ever leave for camp that they are capable of staying the entire time and that you will only pick them up if there is an emergency. Telling them that they can attend a different camp the following year if they didn’t have fun may be a good way to get them to make the most of the moment.
5. Express confidence that they can do it.
Attending a camp is the first opportunity many children have to exercise their independence. Tell your child how proud you are that they are attending camp. If you attended camp as a child, share your experiences but keep them positive. Focusing on how much fun camp can be will go a long way in making your child excited.
6. Let them know that it’s okay to be homesick.
While it is a good idea to focus on the positive aspects of attending camp, it is also important to let your child know what’s coming. Tell them what they can expect at camp, whether it be experiences or emotions, and go through some role-playing scenarios if you think they might help.
7. Send children to camp with pictures of home and family.
Sometimes all your child is looking for is a reminder of a familiar place or person. If your child is attending an overnight camp, let them pick an item to take for added comfort, such as a stuffed animal. For day camps,
it may be easier to send them off with something smaller, such as a picture of a pet or family members.
8. Sign them up for camp with a buddy.
Having a familiar face in the midst of all the newness can go a long way in putting your child at ease, especially if it is their first camp experience. Ask your child if they would like to attend camp with a friend or family member after you’ve talked to the other parents.
9. Send letters to your child.
For overnight camps, letters can make your child feel connected to you even when they are miles away. Send them a letter before they leave so there are some words of encouragement waiting for them when they arrive. You can also provide them with pre-addressed, stamped envelopes so that they can write to you whenever they’d like. HS