The end of the school year is approaching and students and parents are beginning to talk about summer plans. For many students this will include some time at summer camp, either a day camp or sleep away camp. Summer camp is a time to explore new activities, make new friends, and step away from the structure of the school year to play and have fun. Although most children look forward to summer camp, for some, the experience can trigger fears and anxiety. Choosing a camp can also be challenging for parents, especially given the vast number and types of camps available.
It’s helpful to do research and learn about camps so that you can consider the options best suited for your child. Careful camp selection and preparation can lead to a successful camp experience. The following tips may help you and your child prepare for summer camp:
- Make sure that your child is ready for a summer camp experience. Children develop at their own pace so some children may be ready for camp before others. Ask yourself “Is my child ready for camp?” Trust your instincts. If your child is not ready for a sleep away camp, consider a local day camp as a first step.
- Involve your child in choosing the camp. Review websites and brochures with your child. With younger children it may be more effective to first do your research and prepare a short list of workable options prior to reviewing the list with your child. It can also be helpful to talk with other families or children who have had some experience with the camp.
- Choose a camp that fits your child’s personality and interests. Specialty camps, such as tennis or preforming arts, are appealing to kids who are excited about these activities. But for some kids participating in only one type of activity may lead to boredom. Look for a camp that will nurture your child’s interest but also encourage your child to try new activities.
- Make sure your kids know what to expect at camp. Review the schedule of activities and camp policies. Discuss policies for family visits, use of electronics and accepting care packages. Consider visiting the camp if it’s local.
- Involve kids in packing for camp. Encourage them to bring items from home that will help them to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. This might include photos or a favorite toy.
- A disability need not serve as a roadblock to a summer camp experience. Certain camps are geared to serve children with physical, behavioral or developmental disabilities. For example, camps have been developed for children with ADHD or Autism.
- Homesickness is a normal reaction to being away from home. Camp counselors are prepared to deal with this experience. Support your child in working with camp staff to manage the feelings and adjust to the camp environment. For most kids, homesickness passes within a few days.
- If homesickness continues, talk with the camp director to gather more information. Is your child having difficulty with the experience of being away from home? Or is your child having difficulty with the expectations for camp activities or having difficulty getting along with another camper? Work with your child and the director to address the issues. But if you’re not able to resolve the issues, don’t be afraid to have your child come home early. Working through this experience with your child can be a lesson in problem solving. And you can always revisit the idea of summer camp next year.