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Summer is right around the corner, and more than 14 million children and adults in the United States are gearing up to attend summer camp. Children experience many benefits from summer camps, including partaking in fun activities, crafting new friendships, and acquiring new skills. However, some children and parents experience anxiety about heading off to overnight camps. Parents can help alleviate some of the fears by preparing themselves and their children beforehand.
Preparing to Leave
Talking about summer camp early on is effective in alleviating anxiety for you and your children. Head to the library or search online to read about camp experiences. When choosing a camp, involve your children in the decision-making process. Make a list based on cost, distance, and activities that you’re comfortable with, and then allow your children to review the options. You may even ask a few other parents if they’re interested in sending all of the children together.
Focus on the positive aspects of camp when your child shows signs of worry. While you should certainly discuss their fears and doubts, getting your child excited about camp and focusing on the positive will help. Look at the camp’s website and consider scheduling a visit to the camp. Some kids benefit from sleeping over at a family member or friend’s house before camp to experience being away from home. Hosting a sleepover can prepare your children for living in one room with multiple people.
Allowing your children to be a part of the packing and planning process helps them to feel more prepared and capable. Discuss how you'll communicate while they’re away, and explain the camp’s rules on phone calls and letters. Consider writing a letter in advance to hide in their suitcase. This can help you feel better about sending them off and alleviate their first day jitters. You can also pack one or two reminders of home, such as a photo or stuffed animal, to help them feel comfortable and safe.
Some children who have lived in a city are not prepared for the total darkness that occurs in the wilderness because they’re accustomed to streetlights. Consider purchasing a dim flashlight and practice using it in the dark. Don’t forget to mention that the night will be filled with the sounds of insects, frogs, and other animals. Camping for a night before camp, even if it’s just in your backyard, can help calm their fears.
At camp, your children will likely be responsible for many self-care activities. They will choose what to wear for the day, make their beds, clean up their living spaces, help with chores, and more. To help them prepare, practice these activities at home. Ensure your children can select appropriate clothing without your input, make a bed, put clothes away, set a table, handle laundry, go to the bathroom with the toiletries kit, etc.
There’s plenty to worry about when it comes to summer danger, and teaching your children safety tips for life outdoors is crucial. Coach your children on the importance of staying hydrated throughout the day and using sunscreen. Show them how to properly apply sunscreen and when to reapply. Remind your children not to share hats, helmets, or hairbrushes to prevent the spreading of lice. Teach them to not eat anything outdoors because wild berries, mushrooms, and other plants can be poisonous.
Be open and honest with camp about any allergies, medical needs, or other concerns regarding your children. Also, inform your children that the camp is aware of their health concerns, so they should speak up if they need anything. Children with chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, should get a physical exam before going to camp regardless of whether or not is required by the camp.
Remember that getting your children prepared and excited about summer camp will help them feel less fear and anxiety. Summer camp is a great opportunity to make new friends, learn new and important skills, and experience new activities. All of these opportunities will make memories that will last a lifetime.