Preparing your child for Summer Camp

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Ready For Summer Camp

Cue all the scenes from The Parent Trap and Troop Beverly Hills! Roasting marshmallows, sleeping under the stars, getting out on the lake for your first time in a canoe.  For our kids, summer camp has been a great tool in the long process of helping them become more independent problem solvers and people.  There is a lot to think about with summer camp. The deadlines, paperwork, tuition, and packing can be overwhelming. Don’t forget that in addition to all these physical things, there may be some other ways to help prepare your child for summer camp.

 As excited as I have been to send our children to camp it can certainly be overwhelming. The camp our daughter attended did a fabulous job of not only giving us a packing list of ALL THE THINGS she would need for camp, but also offered other practical and social/ emotional ways to help her (and us) prepare for a successful camp experience.  

Ready for Summer Camp
  1. Practical life skill preparation: Skills such as doing their own hair (a simple pony tail or braid is perfect), making their own plate/cutting food, making their bed, addressing envelopes and sending letters can go a long way.  One of my favorite parenting coaches/ counselors Sissy Goff talks a lot about giving kids responsibility for these daily tasks at a young age. She encourage to have kids do the age appropriate tasks to build confidence with competence. So many times I get in the habit of doing things for my kids that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves. This is a great time evaluate this make it a positive change in the context of camp preparation. 
  2. Social skills: Introducing yourself to new people is a great place to start. Modeling or role playing this with your child is an excellent way to practice. It also helps to have a few “go to” things to say in to start a conversation. Some ideas might be “Do you play any sports of have other hobbies?” “What are you most looking forward to about camp?”  It is also a good idea to talk to your child about what to do in the event that a need or concern arises. Even in the safest and most well runs camps things can come up. It can be something concrete like forgetting a needed item or a concern about a food allergy. Some things are harder to find words for like unkind comment from another camper. One of these issues may come up at some point. Brainstorm with your child who a safe adult would be to talk to about their concerns.
  3. Resting: Most camps have some sort of rest period during the day. Your camper will need to keep themself quietly entertained/ regulated during this time. Popular activities include reading (try a books swap with another camper) drawing/coloring, or making friendship bracelets. I know some older girls that love crossword puzzles or mini needlepoint kits. Several boys take baseball cards to organize or trade, do paint by sticker workbooks, or small Lego kits. With all the new data about the negative effects of social media on children learning to have some down time away from a screen is certainly a valuable skill!
  4. Homesickness. This will affect will affect children differently, but most children have some degree of homesickness.  If your child has never spent the night away from home it consider possibly spending the night with a trusted grandparent or very close friend. Even attending some day long camps where they are managing their own belongings/ food/ choices all day is a great start. If your child seems to be ready for camp it is still helpful to talk to them about homesickness. Giving language to this topic is good place to start. “A lot of kids a camp may feel lonely, sad, or miss their family or friends at some point while they are at camp. This is called homesickness and is a normal part of the camp experience.” Every kid and many counselors and other staff too will miss their own home and family during their time at camp. Next, create a plan. “If you feel homesick, let’s think about what you can do.” Have them write down 3 things they could do when they feel homesick.   Telling a counselor or a friend they knew prior to camp or an older buddy camper are all great places to start.  Reading or writing a letter from home is another great option. 
  5. Get excited about the classes they will take, activities they will do and new friends they will meet.  If you know anyone else going to camp take time to foster those relationships prior to camp. Even writing letters or talking on FaceTime with current or future camp friends can be helpful. It is also very normal for moms and dads to have a lot of emotions especially worry or sadness about their child going to camp.  Take the time you need as a parent to journal, pray about and find peace about your child going to camp. They will likely pick up on your cues. 

Don’t for get to check out Packing for Camp

Check out more thoughts about summer camp from our favorite counselors Sissy Goff!

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