Summer camp season is quickly approaching. If you’ve already taken the first step and registered your child for camp, it’s now time to start preparing your child for what’s next.
Here are some tips to help your camper navigate the summer successfully:
Dealing with Homesickness
Psychologist and speaker Dr. Christopher Thurber studied homesickness in 329 boys between the ages of 8 and 16 at resident camp. According to his results, homesickness is the norm rather than the exception. A whopping 83 percent of the campers studied reported homesickness on at least one day of camp. Planning ahead and preparing your child for the camp experience will help combat homesickness.
Thurber and the American Camp Association recommend the following:
- Discuss what camp will be like before your child leaves. Consider role-playing anticipated situations, such as using a flashlight to find the bathroom.
- 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 bribe. Linking a successful stay at camp to a material object sends the wrong message. The reward should be your child’s new-found confidence and independence.
- Pack a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal.
- When a “rescue call” comes from the child, offer calm reassurance and put the time frame into perspective. Avoid the temptation to take the child home early.
- Talk candidly with the camp director to get their perspective on your child’s adjustment.
- 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.
- Trust your instincts. While most incidents of homesickness will pass in a day or two, Thurber’s research shows that approximately 7 percent of the cases are severe. If your child is not eating or sleeping because of anxiety or depression, it is time to go home. However, don’t make your child feel like a failure if their stay at camp is cut short. Focus on the positive and encourage your child to try camp again next year.
Packing for Camp
Many camps have recommended packing lists, so reach out to the camp before your child attends to see what the camp suggests. Sometimes those packing lists are on the camp’s website. The American Camp Association has an example of a packing list online that includes recommended types of apparel, footwear, swimwear and more that will make sure your child’s experience is a well-prepared one. Visit ACAcamps.org to learn more.