Is your child ready for sleep-away camp? How do you prepare them emotionally to be away from home? Your child’s first big experience away from home and family is a big deal. We have done some research on discussion topics to have with your child and ways to prepare him/her for being at camp overnight.
Here are some signs of your child being ready for sleep away camp (from Alphamom based out of NYC):
- The desire to go to a sleep away camp
- They have slept away from home at a friends house
- They can take care of their personal hygeine
- They can swim
- They like to make new friends
- They need a break from video games, DS, TV and interacting with other kids that arent direct family members or close friends is good for their interpersonal skills
- Being responsible for their own choices builds character
- A camp that came highly recommended by friends and neighbors fits their personality and character
- As a parent you are ready to let them go
Talk to your child about what to expect at the sleep away camp you have chosen. Several short talks may be good instead of one long conversation as children absorb more when there is less to think about. Making the conversation part of a more general conversation or casual while eating or in the car out can make the discussion topic seem less formal as well.
Tell your child: If you are shy about meeting new kids, then learn to get to know others by being a good listener. Also remember, that not everyone in your cabin, bunk or group has to be your friend, and you don’t have to be everyone else’s friend. As long as you treat others with respect and they do the same with you, then having one or two friends at camp is fine. If you have more, then that’s great, too!
Tell your child: If you tend to be a bit homesick or worried about being homesick, remember the excitement of going to camp. You may not like all the activities, or you may be better at some than others. That’s normal. But you should be willing to try. The more you put into camp, the more you will get out of it!
Tell your child: You, like every other camper there, will be part of a cabin, bunk or group. As your parent, I hope you will cooperate with others and help out. That’s part of what makes camp so special— kids helping each other out. Most kids will help you if you are friendly and help them.
Give yourself time. One thing about camp is that almost everything is new— the kids, the activities, the routines, the bed you sleep in, the bathroom. It takes a few days to get adjusted, so be patient with yourself. Most of the time you will be having so much fun you won’t mind all the changes, but if you do, remember that you will get so used to things that by the time you come home you will miss all those things!
Tell your child: Camp is about fun, but it also requires that you help out. Clean up is part of camp. As your parent, I hope you will cooperate.
Tell your child: Everyone has good days and bad days. If you are having a problem, your counselor is there to help you. You don’t have to wait to tell us if you are upset about something. After all, if your counselor doesn’t know what might be troubling you, he can’t help you. Be honest and ask for what you need. If your counselor doesn’t seem to be concerned or doesn’t help you, then you can go to the unit director, head counselor, etc. (Parents should know who these “back-up persons” are and how their child will recognize them if they need to).
It’s a great thing to remind your first-time camper about his strong points. I would focus not just on what he does well, but his positive qualities, such as what makes him a good friend or the type of person other kids would want to know. Helping children identify their strengths can help them when they are having a setback— one of those inevitable growing pains all children have from time to time.
Talking with your child about these kinds of issues is a great way to show support as your child gets ready to take this important step on the road to becoming more resilient and self-reliant. For you as a parent, it can give you peace of mind as you allow your child to participate safely in a broader world.
Much of this article written by Bob Ditter from the ParentGuide.com Bob Ditter is a child, adolescent, and family therapist in Boston, Massachusetts. He consults with youth agencies throughout the United States, including The American Camp Association (ACA), The Girl Scouts of the USA, The YMCA, Salvation Army, JCC, and many others. He has visited over 500 camps in the United States, writes a column for Camping Magazine, the official publication of ACA, and has authored several books and training videos for camp professionals.
Image of kids in canoe from timenewyorkkids.com. Sleepaway image from goodreads.com
Original article January 2012