AlpharettaMoms.Org has put together a few ways to tell if your child is ready for sleep away camp and if so, tips to help prepare them. Your child’s first experience away from home is a major milestone and we all want to make sure it is a good experience. Sleep away camp can help your child become more self-reliant but we need to make sure “we” are ready and that we choose the right camp. Not only does your child need to show a desire to attend a sleep away camp, but as parents we need to be ready to let them go.
If your child shows a desire to go to a sleep away camp that is a big first step in knowing if they are ready. Other things to consider include: if they have slept away from the home at a friend’s house, if they can take care of their personal hygiene and if they are comfortable making new friends. If he/she needs a break from video games, the TV or computer now might be a good time to introduce other activities. Great life lessons can be learned while away sometimes. Children may learn that being responsible for their own choices helps build character. Children may meet new friends outside of their social group which will help expand their network and build relationships.
Talking with your child about certain issues before they go to sleep away camp helps to show support and prepare them for what it might be like. Discussing sleep away camp with your child may be good in several short talks instead of one long conversation as children absorb more information when there is less to talk about. If you make the conversation part of a general conversation or casual while eating or in the car, it can make the discussion seem less formal. Some things to discuss with your child may include topics on friendship, activities, cooperating and helping out. Encourage your child to be open to meeting new people. He/She doesn’t have to be friends with everyone in their cabin/group but as long as you treat each other with respect then, having a few friends at camp is okay. Discuss that he/she doesn’t have to enjoy each activity but to be open to trying new things and that he/she may be better at some things than others and that’s how you learn! Cooperation is key and lending a hand to help each other out and clean up is crucial. Another topic is to tell your child not to be afraid to ask questions or to ask for help if they need it. Counselors are there to help you.
The idea of sleep away camp can be a bit scary since there are so many new things your child will be presented with. They will have to make decisions, participate, cooperate, clean-up and will learn daily routines during that week or time away. It may take a few days to become adjusted but tell your child to be patient. Remind your camper about his/her strong points so if they have a setback they can think about their positive qualities such as what makes them a good friend. In the end, maybe both parent and child will be made stronger by just a little time away.
A great tip from AMO reader Eloise (4/2015), “Ps…don’t forget to WRITE your child at camp! (just say happy stuff..not “I miss you or I wish you were here!).” Tell about the pets and just daily stuff and always say see you Friday…or whenever pick up time is! Let them know you are proud of them for going and making new friends! Just know many kids are scared but they come back so happy! (it’s good for parents too!). I think this is an awesome tip b/c our two sons have yet to experience sleep away camp. My almost 13 year old son has had no interest after we repeatedly ask him and our 8 1/2 year old son, Brendan, thought he did want to go with friends but when he found out the camp is 4 hours away he quickly changed his mind. So, I say “nope” not ready! (Christy 4/2015)
Article can be viewed in the May 2014 edition of North Fulton Family Life magazine.
Original article January 2012. Updated annually