As the first day of camp inches closer, hopefully the predominant feelings for you and your child are those of anticipation and excitement, but it’s also natural to be apprehensive and nervous. While it may be challenging to deal with these often conflicting emotions, we hope to help you feel prepared and confident for the start of this exciting experience!
Here are some tips for helping your camper (and family) prepare for the summer:
- Encourage your child’s independence throughout the year. Have them practice routines like teeth brushing and setting the dinner table to help them adjust once camp begins.
- Spend time on perlmancamp.org and go through photos, videos and all activities listed to get your camper looking forward to certain things. Talk about which hobbies he/she might be looking forward to trying out!
- Listen to your camper while talking about what camp will be like and let them express any fears or concerns. Remind them that feelings of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety are completely normal.
- If your child has not slept away from home before, the best thing you can do for them is to arrange sleepovers between now and the beginning of camp. Have them get used to sleeping under a different roof – at a friend’s house, grandparent’s house, etc. These experiences will stimulate feelings of independence and give your child confidence that they can
cope with longer separations from home.
- Involve your child in decisions regarding camp. Have them help create a packing list or have them pick out their new camp shirt or luggage they want to pack in.
- Talk about your communication plan with your child. Remind them that they will not have cell phones but that they will be able to write letters, and that you will be sending them packages, letters and emails. Help them create an address book with everyone’s contact information so that they can keep in touch with family and friends.
- Pack a personal item from home such as a stuffed animal or help your child create a little photo album of some of their
favorite photos to bring with them. This will help if they are missing home OR when they want to show off to their friends and counselors
- Be realistic. Like the rest of life, camp will have high and low moments and your child may have some down moments. Your child should not feel pressured to feel a certain way at camp and remind them that their main goal should be to have fun. Remind them that there will always be a counselor to talk to if they do ever feel sad
- Communicate any issues with camp staff prior to the start of the summer. If your child has a history of bedwetting, sleepwalking, night terrors, etc, it is extremely important that we know about this and can make an appropriate plan. Your child may be extremely anxious that nobody at camp will know how to handle these issues and if we have a plan, we can communicate that plan with your camper and make sure they know what will happen.
- AVOID making promises or statements that imply that you will pick them up if they are sad or want to come home. These statements set your child up for failure and send a message that the only solution to a difficult and normal feeling is to be rescued by mom or dad. It undermines your confidence in your child’s ability to cope with adversity.
- Be positive! Let them know how proud you are that they are setting out on this adventure and how your share their excitement.
- Send a note or care package ahead of time to arrive the first day of camp. Acknowledge, in a positive way, that you will miss your child. For example, you can say “I am going to miss you, but I know that you will have a good time at camp.”
- Don’t feel guilty about encouraging your child to stay at camp. For many children, camp is a first step toward independence and plays an important role in their growth and development.
- Share your optimism, not your anxiety. Talk about all the positive aspects of camp and share your concerns only with another adult, such as your spouse or the camp director. Avoid giving your son or daughter a mixed message by saying something like, “Have a great time at camp. I hope I remember to feed your dog.” Giving your child something to worry about while she’s away will only increase homesickness.