While going away to sleepaway camp for the summer is one of the most exciting rites of passage that some kids get to experience at a certain age, it is also one of the scariest. For probably the first time ever, they are going to be in a new place, among new people, 24 hours a day, without you close by. Some kids naturally adapt to this idea and are excited, but some may have some trepidation. No matter how your children seem to feel about going to camp, there are a few steps you should take to prepare them for the experience.
Try to find out as much about the camp, and the daily experience of living there, as possible. If you can manage a visit before your children go, that’s great, but if not, there are still a wide variety of resources you can utilize to find out about the camp. Visit the camp’s website and read everything they have posted, whether about the daily schedule, the activities offered, the social events, or any other information they have. Get in contact with someone who runs the camp and ask if they can refer you to another parent whose children have previously attended. If so, try to find out as much as possible about what their kids both liked and didn’t like about the experience. Once you have all of this information, talk it all over with your kids. The less there is for them to be surprised by, the better they are likely to enjoy their time there.
Before your children leave, try to acquaint them with some of the elements of being at camp while they’re still at home. Take them hiking or camping for a night to see how they do dealing with the outdoors, the dirt, and the bugs. Make sure to spend some time outside at night so they aren’t afraid of outdoor sounds or the dark. Teach them how to take care of themselves by doing some of the things you may do for them at home, including making up a bed, doing laundry, and washing the dishes. Finally, arrange for your child to spend a few nights at a friend’s house without having communication with you while they’re gone.
Involve your children in the process of packing for camp. Make sure that they bring some comforts from home with them so as to make the new environment less scary. While the camp may provide a list of what to bring, it’s a good idea to Google packing lists from other sources to make sure there’s nothing you’re forgetting.
Homesickness is something that almost every camper goes through to some extent, so do your best to prepare for it in advance. Address the potential of feeling homesick with your kids and try to help them figure out how they’ll work through it. Since camp counselors are trained in dealing with the emotions of the kids, you can recommend them as a great resource. Find out the camp’s policies on phone calls or e-mails home. Some camps only allow letter-writing, so make sure to give your kids plenty of stationery to be able to write to you as needed. Find out how often they’d like to receive letters from you. If it’s as often as every day, oblige their wishes as it will likely make the experience much better for your little camper. Writing a letter for your kids in advance and sending it ahead so it will be there when they arrive might make for a nice surprise on their first night away from home.
Finally, make sure that you get your kids excited about going to camp. Focus on all of the new experiences they’ll get to have, the friends they’ll meet, and the great memories they’ll get to make. Show them positive movies and TV shows that show a good depiction of the camp experience like The Parent Trap, Salute Your Shorts, or old episodes of the Disney Channel reality show Bug Juice, which you can find online. The more you get your kids excited for the experience, the less reason they will have to be anxious about it. Prepare them as best you can, and your kids will have a great time at camp.
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