Getting Ready For Camp
1. Read books about going to summer camp. Books for parent's and children's books (Off to Camp!). After you both read the books, discuss the camp experience with your child and refer to some of the issues raised in the books.
2. Talk with other parents and friends to learn from their camp experience. Ask the camp director to tell you of other camp families in your area. Introduce your child to other children who will be attending your child's camp. This can be in person, over the phone, or email. Take the opportunity to ask questions and discuss concerns.
3. Become familiar with the camp environment. Where do the children sleep, eat, and swim? What is the daily routine and schedule of activities? What do they do in the evening? Visit the camp, if possible.
4. Prepare your child to care for him/herself. Practice Camp. Have your child spend a long weekend with a friend or relative, help with the packing, learn to make their bed, set the table and if they are on medication to take responsibility to take the medication at the appropriate time. Do not communicate with your child while they are on their visit. Discuss how it felt not to be able to talk on the phone daily.
5. Problem solve with your child. Think about anticipatory problems, "What if? .... You lose baseball glove, don't feel well." Have your child think of ways they would solve the problems at camp. It is different than at home.
6. Role-play and practice with your child on how they would respond to camp situations. Walk in the dark at night with a flashlight.
7. Communication at camp is usually through letter writing. Help your child learn to write letters and practice. Address envelopes and post cards to all their friends and relatives so they will receive mail. Find out the camp policy on phone calls.
8. Homesickness feelings are normal in adjusting to any new environment. Discuss how your child felt after spending a weekend with a friend. Did they think about you? How did you feel when you were missing home? When did they get these feelings? Homesick feelings are more prevalent during meals, free time and at night. Remember these are normal feelings and they are to be expected. They usually don't last very long once the child becomes familiar and immersed in camp life. (see article on "Homesickness")
9. Prepare yourself for the separation. Parents often are anxious about sending their child to camp for the first time. This is also very normal. Remember that you have chosen a safe camp for your child and they will be well cared for. Camp is a positive, growing experience. You will have mixed emotions.
10. The camp director is available for concerns. Call with questions and clarification.
Author Myra Pravda is co-author of the children’s book Off to Camp with an accompanying DVD for parents.