Going away to camp is a huge step in the lives of many young children. It’s an exciting time with adventure, new friends and new places. For some children this is an easy step to take, and for others it’s a more daunting endeavor. Many children deal with some level of anxiety before or during their experiences at overnight camps. As parents it’s important to recognize this anxiety and help to support your child to cope with it which enables them to have an experience of mastery which builds self-esteem. Some things that parents can do to ease the transition are:
- Write letters to the child. Most camps have a time where they pass out mail and many even print off emails for the child to read. A little reminder from a parent about how excited they are for their child to be at camp can make a world of difference.
- Don’t make promises to come pick them up. Instead of telling the child that they will come pick them up “if they don’t like it,” the parent should encourage their child to spend some nights getting to make new friends and getting involved in activities that they enjoy.
- Send the child with a memento or token that they can hold that reminds them of home. Giving a child something that they can hold onto when they are homesick can give them comfort. Make sure that the item is not so important that it would be a problem if it was lost or stolen.
- Talk with the counselors about the child. A parent knows their child best and it can be helpful for the camp staff to know any issues or fears the child may have before they start the week.
- Take the child to visit camp before they go. It can be helpful for the child to visualize where they will be staying and not be showing up to an unfamiliar place on the first day of camp.
- If you are not sure that your child is ready for overnight camp, try sending them to day camp for a few years so that they grow accustomed to being in a new place and making new friends.
Going to camp can be some of the greatest memories for a child, so making sure that they go at the appropriate time can prevent regret and make the experience easier for parents, children, and counselors.
Note: This information should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of a mental health condition. Call 612-871-1454 to learn more about Washburn Center’s mental health services for children.