Is your child going to his or her very first sleep away camp this year? There are steps you can take to make sure they have a fun and rewarding experience. Here are some tips to prepare for summer sleep away camp:
Do practice sleepovers
Try creating an environment for your child that simulates sleeping away from home. Request that a family friend, a relative or your child’s best friend hosts a sleepover.
Visit potential summer sleepaway camps
Take a trip down to the summer camp and have your child familiarize themselves with the new environment. Walk around and locate important points such as the mess hall, the bunk and the bathrooms. Choose the top 3 sleep away camps you like, then have your child help make the final decision. This empowers your child and adds to the positive camp experience.
Speak with the camp director
Good camp directors make the entire experience a positive one. Have the camp director speak with your child and determine if the interaction is a good one.
Sprinkle encouragement, praise and positive words all throughout the summer sleep away camp experience. Don’t dwell too much about missing your child when they’re away at camp. Instead, highlight the exciting things and memorable experiences they will experience once they set foot inside the camp location. When your child is away, resist the temptation to call and check how he or she is doing.
Sleep away summer camp will provide an excellent experience for your child. Set aside some quality time and listen afterwards. Was it an enjoyable experience? If it is, then you should encourage your child to try it again next year.
Some Parental Advice
Often, parents have confusing thoughts when they hear their children talking about their fears. As parents, we worry about bullying and other social aspects, but children’s fears are much more basic. For example, they worry about simple things such as the food tasting funny, their sleeping bags might be itchy, or that the cabin smells a bit weird. It’s understandable that they may not be keen on the idea of taking a shower with the other kids.
The best way to understand their fears is to ask them about it. It may seem to be small compared to yours, but it’s a big deal for them. When your child finally agrees to go to camp, resist the urge to offer a reward or a prize in advance. Summer sleep away camp is one of the best places where your child can develop his or her character, independence and grit, which is doubly effective when we take off the reins. Meaning, you should allow the chance for your child to feel out of place and be uncomfortable without any of your help. This way, your child can grow in his or her own way and experience personal accomplishments and take pride in knowing that they did it on their own.
Try your best to hide your anxiety, because it can be contagious. Don’t add to your children’s worry and let go. Tell your own version of how you were able to overcome the feelings of homesickness, whether it was at a similar sleep away camp, during college or when you finally struck out on your own.
Sleep away summer camp can bring in a lot of benefits that aren’t present in most other settings including school.
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