Congratulations! Making the decision to send your child to overnight camp for the first time is a big step. You, or they may be a bit nervous about this new adventure The good news is that with these tried-and-true preparation strategies you can help set them up for success.
Engage Your Camper in Their Preparation: Share information that you receive whether it’s the packing list, health form, questionnaires, or updates. This will help your child feel like they know more about what’s happening. It will probably lead them to think of questions they want to ask before they even arrive at camp.
Create a Camp Journal: This is a great way for your child to look forward to camp. Have your camper write down or draw all the things they are excited for about camp – whether it’s making new friends, learning skills, trying new things, being outside, etc. Ask questions “how will you feel if you reach this goal?” “What do you think it will be like to try new things?” and “What are some things you can do to make new friends?”. Encourage them to bring it to camp as a reminder about their excitement and encourage them to add notes during their session.
Ask Your Camper About Their Concerns: Most children will have at least some worries… What will I do if I don’t understand something? Who can I talk to if I have a problem? By helping your camper feel capable that they can find solutions and know that the adults are there to help, can go a long way to building confidence that they can be independent of you.
Talk With Your Camper About Missing Home: Help your camper understand that missing home, family, pets, and friends is normal. By echoing the simple message that we share with campers that they can miss home AND can have a blast at camp at the same time is powerful. Brainstorm strategies they can use if they are feeling sad - talking with friends or their counselor, jumping into activities, drawing pictures, playing games, or reading. Have them think about when they have worked through a challenge – it helps them to have a reference experience that they can do hard things. These are great strategies to add to their journal so that they can feel resourceful at camp.
Packing for Camp: While it may be easier for you to pack for them, engaging your child in the process builds their confidence and independence. Review the clothing and equipment list together, figure out what you have and what you need to get. Can they help label their belongings? Self-addressed and stamped envelopes or postcards to friends and family? Lay out their clothing ahead of time? Check off the list during packing? These are all great ways they can be involved
Now for a Few Reminders All You Parents and Guardians…
Read and review all the information your camp provides and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Resist the urge to tell your child they can come home if they are homesick or don’t like camp. This can quickly backfire and set your child up to be unsuccessful. Talk with your camp about how they handle these situations.
Realize that you may get “camper sick” – again this is normal, think about some strategies to help you when you’re missing your child.
Plan something fun to do for yourself while your child is at camp.
Lastly, best wishes for a wonderful summer and know that you are giving your child an amazing gift by sending them to camp!
Marijean “MJ” Parry
Executive Director, Fleur de Lis Camp