Off To Camp
Summer is half over, but there’s still lots left to do – maybe your child has sleep-away camp on the agenda during the last four weeks of summer. Camp can be an exciting, but still terrifying, prospect for many kids, especially those who don’t have a lot of experience sleeping away from home.
How can you help make the experience so fantastic they’re dying to go back next year?
Start by having a positive attitude (but don’t overdo it). Emphasize all the fun your child is going to have, and talk about all of the cool activities that she’ll have a chance to do, like swimming in the lake, canoeing, learning a new skill such as archery, or roasting marshmallows over a campfire. If you’re positive and enthusiastic, that will help your child feel confident in her decision to go. But at the same time, it’s ok to address concerns and fears. Don’t dismiss it if your child talks about being nervous as well as excited – “You’ll be fine, don’t worry about it!” Instead, validate her concerns, and ask what you could do together before you go to help her feel more confident. Stay positive and assume a good outcome for her, but don’t gloss over any fears she may have.
Check things out beforehand if you can. Advertising works by presenting a consumer with the same product over and over, which leads to feelings of familiarity and comfort, even if the consumer has never actually tried the product. Harness that same power to help soothe anxieties about the newness and strangeness of camp. Go to any open-houses the camp might have, and check out the camp’s web site together to help your child feel more comfortable with the setting. See if there’s a sample daily schedule on the site, and walk through the day together, mentally rehearsing the way the days will flow. Maybe there’s an online forum where campers can meet other campers who will be there the same week.
Bring a few comfort items from home. Something as simple as a familiar pillowcase can be enough for some kids, but maybe they’d prefer to pack a few photos or favourite stuffed friend to help bring a little bit of home with them. And of course, if there’s an opportunity for you to write to your kids while they’re away, do that! Most kids love to get mail at the best of times, and having a little connection to home by hearing about what’s going on (even if it’s nothing very exciting) can be very reassuring.
Encourage your kids to talk to the counsellors about any concerns they may have, or any loneliness or homesickness they may be feeling. The staff have seen it all before, and are experts at helping kids to feel relaxed and comfortable at camp. They’ll know just how to handle a homesick kid at bedtime, but if it’s an extreme case and your camper needs to come home, that’s ok too. The counsellors will help your child feel ok about how she’s feeling, and reassure her that there’s always next time. You can do the same: just be supportive and matter-of-fact about the whole experience, and remind her that even though she didn’t feel ready right now, she assuredly still got something positive out of the experience, and she can feel proud of herself for giving it a try.