Your family has researched and selected the summer camp that is the best fit for your child. You’re ready. But now you’re concerned that your child isn’t.
This will be your child’s first experience with a summer camp, and you’re concerned that your child seems more anxious and hesitant than excited. It’s natural. Meanwhile, here are 8 tips that will help you prepare your child for going to summer camp for the first time.
1. Share your own childhood experiences. If you attended summer camp, go back to that time in your memory. Let your child know that you also were worried. But then share with your child everything you remember about camp. The friends you made, the songs you sang, a skill you learned, even a silly moment that will elicit a chuckle from your child.
2. Acknowledge your child’s concerns. Before any new experience, it’s completely natural to have mixed feelings. Most people feel anxious, nervous, scared, and worried about new experiences in new places with new people. Then remind your child how he/she has handled this in the past- before your child started his/her current school, for instance, or before the first practice for your child’s basketball team. Then gently remind your child that in those instances, everything worked out. It’ll work out again at summer camp, too.
3. Attend open house and orientation activities. If your child’s summer camp offers an Open House or any sort of orientation activities, attend them when possible. Your child will have the chance to meet new people (fellow campers as well as camp staff). Your child will obtain firsthand knowledge which can then replace the imagined scenarios he/she has in mind.
4. Get the kids involved in all the prep. Don’t try to just get things done. Make it a special event. Go shopping with the kids for any supplies your child will need at camp, such as a new swimsuit, towel, or lunchbox. Fill out the paperwork together. Have your child as involved in the preparation as possible.
5. Role play different situations. Younger children may need some extra help and practice with initiating conversation and making new friends. Role play different scenarios. Give your child some suggestions about opening lines or ways to break the ice with another child.
6. Talk to previous campers. If at all possible, get in touch with campers and their families who have experience at this summer camp. Let your child hear from kids who have “been there, done that.” Maybe your child is hesitant to ask questions of camp staff, but will feel more comfortable asking another child how the food really tastes or if any of the activities are boring.
7. Review the camp schedule. Make sure your child knows what his/her day will be like. How much time is spent outdoors? How much inside? How much of the day involves group work or team activities? And how much is independently structured? How much choice does your child have in his/her day and how much is already planned for him/her? Knowledge and information can be very reassuring.
8. Countdown to the first day of camp. Just like you make a big deal about the first day of each new school year, make a big deal about the first day of camp. Mark it on the calendar. Count down the days with excitement. Maybe you have a special tradition for the first day of school. Start your own special tradition for the first day of summer camp.