Most of you may be well into camp season already. But if you
have a child who will be going off for the first time next year, it’s not too
early to start preparing now.
The year ahead.
Perhaps the first thing you can do to prepare your kids for sleep-away camp is to encourage sleepovers with extended family and close friends. This is good practice for battling homesickness and separation anxiety. Depending on their age, you may want to get your kids’ feet wet with day camp before they make the jump into sleep-away camp.
Another really valuable preparation is swimming lessons. Camp offers so many water activities, your child will be better able to participate if he or she is confident in the water.
Let your kids join the conversation.
Include your children in the process of choosing the right camp. Look together online, talk to other parents, and even visit in person before you sign up.
Talk to your children about the reality of homesickness, and give them a plan for what to do when it occurs. That plan may include an expectation of three to four letters from home over the duration, or packing a reminder from home, such as a toy or stuffed animal.
As you talk to your kids, remember that camp is an opportunity to have new experiences. Encourage them to make new friends and try new things.
Another great way to ramp up your first-timers’ enthusiasm is to include them in creating their packing list and let them help pack. Teach them how to use sunscreen and insect repellent and how important it is to stay hydrated. Go over camp safety procedures more than once.
And while you’re packing that sunscreen, bug spray, and water bottle, put your kid’s name on everything. Most campers will be traveling with the same gear, so you don’t want your child to go without.
Pack two of anything that needs a day to dry out, like swim suits and beach towels.
Ask ahead of time about the camp’s safety policies, medical facilities, and how they handle emergencies or sickness. Make sure the camp staff is clear about any allergies or medications concerning your children.
Remember, it’s only for a week or two.
Leaving home for the first time can be hard on both the child and the parent, but camp can also be an essential component of childhood development. In an environment created just for them, children learn real life skills, develop self-esteem, and gain a sense of independence and community.
The American Camp Association’s website offers an abundance of information and guidance, including why ACA-Accreditation is important, how to choose a camp, suggested packing lists, and a parent blog. Visit www.acacamps.org.
Author of this article
Emma Hollingsworth, MD, specializes in women’s health and pediatrics. She is a guest columnist and located at IU Health Physicians Family Medicine, 8820 S. Meridian Street, Suite 120, in Indianapolis. She can be reached by calling the office at 317.865.6700.