How to Get Ready for Summer Camp
BY DR. RICK BAVARIA
If summer camp is in the future for your child, spring is the perfect time to start planning and preparing! Whether your kids are interested in day camp or sleep-away camp, there’s no denying the educational and social benefits summer camps can have. However, some kids find it easier to adjust to the new routine than others.
For children returning to a camp they’ve attended in the past, the process can be exciting! They’re looking forward to seeing old friends, practicing sports, arts and crafts, exploring interests, and discovering talents. For other kids, especially if they’re attending a new camp, the idea can be stressful. What can they expect? Will they make friends? Will it be scary? If it’s a sleep-away camp, will they be homesick? What if they don’t like it?
Now’s the time to address these potential issues and put them to rest. Here are some tips to consider.
When your child has a say, it’s more likely they’ll be invested in the selection process. This will also help build their confidence that camp will be a positive experience. Talk about what kind of camp your family is interested in. Would they prefer a day camp or sleep-away camp? Would they like one with an emphasis on sports? Computer skills? The arts? Church-affiliated?
Emphasize the positive.
Talk about the fun things that will be a part of the daily camp life, such as doing new and different activities and spending loads of time on a favorite sport or hobby.
Camp is like real life. Some days are fantastic. Some days aren’t. It’s what we make it. Teach your kid to recognize and appreciate the good things and to learn from setbacks, not to dwell on them. If you have happy memories of summer camp, share them. Kids want to be independent, but they need a little help. Learning from your experiences can be helpful.
Give your child opportunities to talk about concerns.
Listen and stay positive. Don’t let them worry about the “what ifs.” (“What if a monster’s in the lake?” or “What if everyone hates me?”) Bring the conversation back to the promising “what ifs.” (“What if you make a great new friend!” or “What if you finally crush that difficult soccer move?”)
Visit ahead of time.
Plan a short trip to campgrounds with a friend or co-camper if possible. Seeing what the place looks like and being familiar with it will help your child feel less surprised on the first day. If you can’t visit, look at brochures and videos together. You could also talk with other kids who’ve been to the camp before and hear abut their experience.
Get a camp buddy.
If your child can go to camp with a friend, that’s great! If not, encourage them to make new friends early. Socializing skills lead to friendships.
Keep in touch.
If it’s a sleep-away camp, promise your child you’ll keep in touch as often as the camp allows. Keep the messages upbeat, supportive, and friendly. Express interest in what they are learning, the experiences they’re having, and the talents they’re developing.
Help the camp counselors.
They want your child to succeed and have an enjoyable experience. If your child has allergies or special medications, for example, make sure you’ve communicated that to the counselors. They don’t know what you don’t tell them.
Get yourself ready.
If this is the first time your child will be away from home, realize that you’ll need some period of adjustment, too. Plan some time to enjoy the change in routine, and catch up on chores, reading, or your own on-hold interests.