Setting Up Your Child for a Successful Summer Camp Experience
Jun 05, 2018
School’s out! Each year, parents and children look forward to the change of pace offered by the summer months. Although it’s a popular time to unwind with backyard barbeques and visits to the pool, it may be a challenge for parents to find enough activities to fill their child’s free time. Many parents look to summer camps as an option.
The decision to enroll your child in a summer camp is only the first step. With the variety of options, parents may wonder about the possible benefits. What should you consider when selecting and preparing a child for camp?
Benefits of Summer Camp
One possible benefit of summer camp is the opportunity for children to create new relationships with other children and adult mentors. Positive relationships and feeling connected to others can help prevent feelings of isolation, sadness and self-doubt. Camp may also provide opportunities for children to build their social skills, such as teamwork and making friends and foster independence outside of the family.
Readiness for Overnight Camp
Consider your child’s comfort level when away from home and with changes to their regular schedule. Has your child been away from home for a night or more and how did it go? How do they handle separation from you? Would your child benefit from trying a day camp or a short camp experience first?
In addition to your own goals for your child, look at your child’s interests and needs when selecting a camp, especially older children and teens. Consider whether your child has an interest in developing new skills or how camp can help develop their strengths.
Quality and Content
Check out the ratio of adults to children, training of camp leaders, amount of structured time and facilities. Knowing the age range of anticipated campers can help you make a decision as to whether a camp’s activities might be right for your child. If your child has a medical, physical or behavioral disability, the American Camp Association reports that 44 percent summer camps across the country have specialized programs to meet the needs of children with disabilities.
Tips for Preparing for Camp
Take time to talk with your child about what they can expect from camp – from the facilities to the activities they will participate in.
Involve your child in preparation. Make checklists and shop for supplies to help with anticipation and growth in organization and planning skills.
If you are unsure about how your child may do at an overnight camp, try an overnight with a relative or friend first.
Practice strategies your child can do independently to face situations at camp. For example, if your child raises concern about missing home while away, pack a few reminders of home, identify designated staff at the camp to talk to, or rehearse some calming statements (e.g., I’m having fun at camp and will be home soon).
Practice taking a break with a few deep breaths or low-key activities (such as drawing). Camp can be busy and feeling overwhelmed at times is only natural.
Telling your child how much you will miss them may increase their hesitation. Instead, focus on your excitement for your child’s experience.
Samanta Boddapati, PhD is a psychologist and PAX coordinator at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
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