Emotionally Preparing for Camp
The lead up to camp is an incredibly exciting time for a child – and it can also be an anxious time as well. Here are some tips for helping your child emotionally prepare to go camp.
Learn together. Explore our website and social networking sites with your child. Looking at pictures from camp will help them visualize their upcoming experience – where they will sleep and what activities they will get to try. Talk about swimming in the lake – unlike a pool, the lake may be dark at the bottom and may (in their minds) harbor scary critters (all benign!). Read books about going to camp. We like Off to Camp by Myra Pravda.
We offer home visits to families where you can meet a member of our leadership team, see our slideshow and ask any questions you and your child may have. If you need more information from us, just get in touch!
Involve your child every step of the way. From planning to packing. It helps to practice skills your child will need at camp (bed making, doing dishes, showering).
Talk about camp in a positive way. Avoid phrases like “I am going to miss you terribly!” and “You can always come home if you don’t like it.” This may close their minds to giving camp a fair chance, leading them to focus instead on going home. Instead, try “I am so excited to hear about all the adventures you’re going to have” and “If you feel homesick, tell your leader. Don’t hide it.” Help your camper to know that we want to support him/her, and we can’t do that as well if we don’t know when he/she is having a hard time.
Mention the not so great realities too. There should be no surprises when your child discovers mosquitos and making his/her own bed.
Speak openly of homesickness. Homesickness happens to everyone, from first-time camper to (surprise!) long-time staff member. If your child knows that, it can cause less anxiety.
Explain that getting the big people’s assistance is different from at home. At home, we tell our children that we’re never more than a phone call away, and never talk to strangers. Discuss how camp is a safe place where they go by themselves, and why it’s okay at camp to interact with “strangers” who will soon become friends. Explain that there won’t be any phone calls to or from home. Make it clear that at camp, the strategy for getting support is to turn to those new friends and leaders.
Practice problem solving. Work through the “What ifs?” : “What if… you lose your bathing suit, don’t feel well, are scared of the lake?”
Prepare yourself. The separation can bring you mixed emotions. It’s a big step for you too!