Your child is going to summer camp. Here are a few ways to help them prepare.
Discuss Feelings/Talk about Concerns/Listen
Talk about homesickness. Tell your child that it is normal to miss home. Encourage them to write letters home, share their feelings with other people, and think about all the fun things that they are doing at camp. Help them write letters home by providing pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes and paper. Encourage youth to meet other friends and share their feelings of homesickness. Many youth attending camp are going through the same thing. It’s a great time to say “Hi, my name is…do you want to play…”.
Check in with your camper as you prepare for camp. Ask “What are your thoughts about heading off to camp?” Listen. Communicate the confidence that you have in your child be expressing success that they have experienced in other situations.
Problem Solve Together
Discuss some of the problems that your camper may experience at camp. How they can overcome them. A couple problems that campers may encounter at camp are: homesickness and getting along with cabin mates. Talk about homesickness and what to do. Get involved. Be distracted. Talk with other campers, counselor or adult about feelings of missing home. When cabin mates are hard to get along with, tell them what you would do. Campers can always talk to their counselor, camp staff or an adult.
When communicating to your camper before camp, and the first day of camp, use positive language that does not express anxiety. For example don’t say “what will I do without you.” This can cause worry for the child and may district them from their week at camp. Also, don’t make a bailout plan if they aren’t having fun. Again, the camper will focus on this and not get as involved in the camp experience. Counselors and agents are there to help support campers. If there truly is a problem, the 4-H Agent will contact you.
Pack Reminders of Home
Pack pictures of friends and family, a favorite stuffed animal, a favorite blanket, etc. Anything small that can help your camper feel comforted.
Prepare for Camp Together
Shop for camp supplies, and pack the suitcase together. Talk about what your camper might experience at camp. Do these things to be better prepared for a week apart.
Attend Camp Orientation
Many camp programs offer an orientation meeting. Attend! This is a great place to learn about camp, what to expect, how to plan, etc. It is also a great time for your camper to meet who they will spend the week with. This will help provide a familiar face on the first day of camp, which can make the difference in adjusting to a new environment.
Have Realistic Expectations
Talk about camp ahead of time. Discuss that just like life, camp can have its ups and downs. Camp at times could be boring, but it can also be fun. Discuss things that the child may enjoy: fun games, new songs, campfires, outdoor activities.
Check out my next blog entry to see how to prepare yourself as a parent/guardian as you send your child off to camp.