Is Your Child Ready for Summer Camp?

So you’re thinking of sending the kiddos off to camp – excellent way to keep them busy over summer break! They’ll get to try out new activities, make new friends, become a wee bit more independent, plus it’ll give you an opportunity to miss each other (hah)… But are they ready?

What Age Is the Best Age?

Some children as young as seven are eager and chomping at the bits to go to camp – while some twelve-year-olds are panic stricken at the thought of it. If your child enjoys sleepovers at a friend’s house or with grandparents, they’re probably ready to go. However, if your child consistently struggles with sleepovers or making friends, don’t count on it.

Speak with the director and tell them about your reservations. Camp counselors are experts in teaching children coping skills and self-reliance. They will likely have some ideas that could help with friendship-making skills.

Camp Prep

Check with other parents you know and see if their kids are going to camp – your child may feel more at ease knowing a friend is going to camp the same week.

If your kiddo has never spent a night away from you, start arranging sleepover dates months in advance before summer camp. The first couple of times may bring homesickness or at least an anxious call home, but each successful sleepover will build their confidence (and yours!). Since camp is longer than one night, you may also want to try some extended sleepovers at grandma’s or at a friend’s house to see how they do.

Camp Expectations

You probably have a few camps in mind, but your child will feel a sense of ownership with the camping experience if they are involved in the decision-making process.

Once you choose a camp, explain what the camp environment and activities will be like so they can be prepared. For example, they may not realize that they’ll be showering and dressing with other kids, with very little privacy. In addition, campers are usually expected to keep a tidy cabin, which means making their bed every day. There will probably be swimming tests before they participate in activities like zip lining over water.

Work with the information you have and approach it with positivity and excitement to try new things and have fun.

Camp I Wanna Go Home

Start talking about camp several weeks before it begins. Even a camper who is excited about going for the first time may get jitters when the day approaches and want to back out. Some talking points to help stave off jitters and homesickness:

  • If you sense some reservations from your camper, steer clear from asking leading questions like, “Are you nervous about passing the swimming test?” Ask open-ended questions like, “How do you feel about swimming at camp?”. From there, you can acknowledge any fears or anxieties and problem-solve together instead of suggesting that they will get nervous and fail the swimming test.
  • Point out qualities and talents of your camper and how they can be an asset at camp.
  • There will be plenty of activities available. Your camper may not like some, but it’s a good idea to try. If they don’t like it, that’s okay. Encourage them to step out of their comfort zone.
  • Camping is a great place to make new friends, but it’s okay if they’re not friends with everyone. A couple of good friends is better than a group of friends who don’t really know them.
  • Focus on the tangible details when you talk about summer camp. Avoid issues like what it’s like to be away from home and sleeping in a cabin with people you don’t know, in favor of cabin details, activities at the lake, or campfire rituals.
  • Stroll down memory lane and share your own camp memories. Be open to talk about the new things they will be doing, whether it’s sleeping in a bunk bed, being on a daily schedule, or getting along with fellow cabin mates.

Are YOU Ready?

Your camper is ready to go, but you may be the one with reservations. Children are surprisingly adept at picking up on our emotions, even if we don’t verbally convey our worries to them. You have prepared them for this life experience and must trust in that. Share your confidence in your child. They may stumble here and there, but that’s what helps them shape who they are and what they want to become. Summer camp can be one of the most positive experiences they will have. Relax and look forward to the animated non-stop chatter that will ensue when they come home!

Will you be sending your kiddo to camp this summer? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments!

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