Summer camp is more than a country vacation for children. At camp, kids learn to appreciate the outdoors, develop companionship and pick up skills that enhance self-reliance, cooperation and interdependence. These skills will remain with them throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Below are tips to make the transition smoother for you and for them.
Learn to let go – This allows children to develop independence and self-confidence. It also gives parents some down time for themselves. When children return, parents can feel refreshed and be available and accessible to them again.
Prepare for camp together – Decisions about camp like where to go and what to pack should be a joint venture, keeping in mind your child’s level of maturity. If your child feels part of the decision-making process, his/her chances of having a positive experience will improve.
Don’t buy a whole new wardrobe – Camp is more rugged than life at home. A child doesn’t need new clothes, and having well-worn clothes and familiar possessions will help ease the transition. This is especially important for first-time campers.
Talk about concerns – As the first day of camp approaches, some children experience uneasiness about going away. Children should be encouraged to talk about these feelings. Ask your child about his feelings rather than acting on what you think his feelings may be. Communicate confidence in his/her ability to handle being away from home and remind him/her about successes he/she has experienced in other situations.
Have realistic expectations – Camp, like the rest of life, has high points and low ones. Not every moment will be filled with wonder and excitement. Your child will likely experience happiness, sadness and boredom – and kids may not always get along with one other. It’s your job to mentally prepare them for the reality of camp life. Keep in mind that the main purposes of camp are to relax and have fun.
While Your Child is Away
Keep calls to a minimum – The first two weeks are adjusting periods, so you shouldn’t call during that time. Besides, time away from Mom and Dad will help your child to mature.
Communicate in writing – You rarely get the chance to write letters these days, but while your kid is away the two of you can get a lot of practice and have fun writing each other. Keep communication upbeat and express real interest in camp activities.
Send fun packages every so often – A little taste of home is a great way to help kids adjust, so send things like comics, books, games, puzzles, etc. that can keep him/her busy and that can be shared with new friends.
Keep home familiar – Resist the urge to redecorate his room or get rid of his favorite pet. Kids crave their familiar surroundings when returning home.
Help your child cope at camp – Adjusting to camp and spending time away from family and friends may make your child homesick or desperate to return home. Resist the urge to yank them out of camp if they are struggling initially as this is to be expected. Instead, calmly encourage them and express your love and belief in their ability to get through these new challenges.
However, if you sense that there’s a real and significant problem, talk to the camp director and get a better understanding. If there is no change in a few days, it may be best to bring your child home.
Adjusting to home life again – with all of its responsibilities – may be a challenge for your kid at first. So be sure to allow time and space for the reentry process. Support any positive changes you observe and reintroduce house rules gradually with patience and awareness that your child has matured a little over the summer.