Guest Author - Lisa Polovin Pinkus
For parents and campers alike, the anticipation of going to overnight camp for the first time can be, simultaneously, exhilarating and nerve-wracking. Entering the abyss of the unknown is easier for some than others. For those others who may struggle a bit, we want to ease them into the experience as tenderly as possible.
In the weeks prior to camp beginning, you might observe an array of emotions. Anticipation, excitement, fear, and anxiety are all normal feelings. It is not uncommon for moms to experience many of these same emotions. It is important to keep your own anxieties separate from those of your child and to do what you can to prepare your child for a wonderful camp experience.
The first thing to consider as you prepare your child for his upcoming adventure is who this child is. Is he an introvert or extrovert? Does she adapt to change well? Does she enter new experiences with delight or with hesitation? What sorts of things are important for your child to know before arriving at camp?
Talk about what takes place at camp. Explore the camp’s website and brochures to learn all you can about camp. Invite your child to ask questions about camp routines, activities, and concerns he or she may have.
Take advantage of any visitor’s days the camp has set up. Whether they are virtual or live, these visits will allow your child to ‘see’ the camp prior to arriving for her session. Many camps also host a ‘meet the campers from your area’ in order to introduce your child to others who will be coming from the same area.
Don’t shy away from discussing homesickness. Talk about things your child can do when she is feeling lonely for you. While not uncommon, most children get over it and live through it enough to enjoy their time at camp.
Send your child with pre-addressed, stamped envelopes to make letter writing easy, but don’t put the pressure on. And don't expect to receive a letter every day. Many camps require that their campers send a letter home at least once during a two-week experience. What you can do is make sure you send mail to your child while he or she is at camp.
If your child has not slept out overnight before now, try to arrange a sleepover at a friends or relatives prior to the beginning of camp. A short taste of what it means to be away from home can be very helpful.
Let your child know that his or her worried feelings are normal. It’s ok to be scared but that doesn’t mean it won’t be great.
Involving your child in the packing process and picking out some of the camp essentials can get him excited for his summer adventure.
In the weeks and months prior to summer, do what you can to boost your child’s independence – let her get ready on her own, prepare her own breakfast, or decide when she’s going to turn off the lights for the night.
You know your child better than anyone else. Our children’s different personalities require different responses from us. Show your child your enthusiasm for the upcoming summer escapade and your belief that he will have a great time!
Your child may openly speak to you about being nervous for camp or you may notice changes in her behavior. You may even have a child who doesn’t feel nervous at all. Regardless, moms, there are things we can do to help prepare our child for their first time at overnight camp and for embracing the new experience with joy and eager anticipation.