As a Camp Director, I understand the value that parents are giving their children by allowing them a camp experience. As a father, I was a little nervous sending my child away to camp for the first time. My wife and I researched and found the right camp for our daughter and then it was time to help her make the transition to time away from home and prepare for camp. Here are some things that we did to help her prepare for an amazing camp experience.
Pack for camp with your child. You can start the process a week or two before camp. Packing for camp can be a great opportunity to discuss what camp will be like and how much fun they are going to have. It is also a way to develop decision making skills based on your child’s maturity level. When our daughter wanted to bring her new tennis shoes to camp, we could have just said no. Instead, we asked her questions, “What kind of activities will you wear the tennis shoes to?” “Remember when we visited camp and you heard about the creek walk? How do you think that will affect your shoes?” These questions allowed her to find the right decision. If your child feels a part of the decision-making process, his/her chances of having a positive experience will improve.
- Remember that camp is a place for clothes to get dirty and sometimes lost. Thrift stores and garage sales are great for “new” camp clothes.
- Pack clothes by day and include an extra day. (My wife puts them in sealable plastic bags with the day of the week on them)
- Buy one new item that can only be used at camp. Pack this item first in anticipation of camp.
- Sneak a note in their luggage telling them how much you love them and how excited you are for them to be at camp.
Talk about camp
As you are packing and getting ready for camp, make sure to talk about what it is going to be like. Ask questions like, “What do you think will be your favorite activity?” and “What do you think the food will be like?” When your child shares concerns about going away, encourage him or her to talk about these feelings, and let them know you have confidence in their ability to handle being away from home. Avoid sharing your concerns other than a typical response of, “I’m going to miss you too, but I am so excited for you.”
Camp is about development
Camp is an opportunity for your son or daughter to experience the world larger than they the one that is familiar. In addition to the fun and new experiences they will be having, they will be gaining self esteem, confidence, and learning about the outdoors. It is also an opportunity for your child and you to learn to be apart. Positive separation allows children to develop autonomy and a stronger sense of self, make new friends, develop new social skills, learn about teamwork, and more. This time also allows parents an opportunity to take care of themselves, so that they will feel refreshed when their child returns home.
As parents, we have the opportunity to work with camps to help raise our children to be creative, confident, successful adults. Thanks for being a part of the camp community and have a great summer!