It’s stressful enough picking a summer camp (or camps) for your kids.
But that’s just the beginning.
Some kids have anxiety about going to camp, especially if they are going to be away from home for the first time, or with children they don’t know.
We’ve rounded up some great suggestions for preparing your kids for summer camp, whether it’s just for the day, overnight for a week or more in another city.
Get your child’s buy in
We moms at All the Moms (who have repeatedly done the camp thing with our children) recommend asking your kids what kind of camp they’d like to attend. Or, at the very least, select a camp that most closely matches your child’s interests.
We have a database that allows you to search more than 1,400 camps by age, location and type (outdoors, sports, STEM, arts, etc.). Some are overnight camps, some are drop-in, and some require a weekly commitment.
Some even allow younger siblings to attend at a discounted rate.
Preparing your child to go off to camp
Author Todd Patkin and licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Howard J. Rankin, offered the following advice in an article with the Pittsburgh Parent.
- Make sure your child really would like to go to camp. Talk to them about what they’re excited about, and what questions, worries or fears they have. They may need some reassurances.
- Separation anxiety can be normal, especially if this is the first camp your child will attend. Practice shorter separations before the camp to make the transition easier.
- Stay calm even if your child gets upset. As much you might be emotionally overwhelmed at the time, your child will need a source of support.
- Make sure the camp they’re going to piques their curiosity. (All the Moms has found that the whole camp experience tends to go better with kid buy-in on the front end. Ask them what kind of camp they’d like to attend. After all, there are more than 1,400 camps in our database that cater to virtually every age level and interest.)
- Let your child take “home” with him, in the form of a family photo or keepsake.
Should they go with a friend?
Going to sleep-away camp for the first time can be daunting, so you may think there’s no better way to ease the transition than by going with a friend.
But that’s not always the best plan, according to Renee Flax, director of camper placement at the American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey.
According to the interview, in an article by Kara Yorio of the (Bergen County, N.J.) Record, “your kid may be stuck with the same label they have at school or in their home friend group; they may feel pressured to stay with their friend instead of having fun and making new memories; and what if one friend makes lots of new camp buddies who don’t like the other friend?”
If your child does go with a friend, it’s a good idea to make sure they won’t also be activity or cabin mates, leaving them some room apart and to forge other bonds.
If there’s an opportunity for kids to mingle before camp starts or take a bus together, that will provide a way for your child to make friends and have someone to talk to before they even arrive, lowering the overall stress level.