Going to overnight summer camp is a marvelous experience ~ practically a rite of passage for children seeking their first away adventure of independence. First-time campers might express a bundle of enthusiasm tempered with some normal anxiety, a typical “fear of the unknown.” There are many easy ways to prepare a child for a positive summer camp experience.
For parents reluctant to let go so early, even if just a week, remember that separation from children is necessary for growth and change and inevitable in the long run. “The greatest gifts that parents can give a child are independence and resiliency,” says Peg Smith, chief executive officer of the American Camp Association® (ACA). “Parents should remember that by choosing camp they are giving both.” What better place to begin than a fun, overnight, summer adventure?

~ Choose a camp together. Where one kid might be happy traveling five hours from home for two weeks, another might prefer just one week within an hour and a half. For a kindergarten child, maybe a day camp is the best first choice.

~ Read about the activities. If your child has extra apprehension of a specific one, reassure them that you and the child will discuss this with a camp administrator or counselor before he or she arrives.

~ Look at photos on the camp website or in a brochure.

~ Reassure the first-time camper that everyone has butterflies before a new adventure, grown-ups included.

~ Ask to talk to returning campers by e-mail or on the phone.

~ Hold back any anxiety that you, the parent, might have about your child being away from home. Children key in on adult emotions very perceptibly.

~ Prepare siblings left behind for the temporary separation. Take photos of all the kids together to keep on the refrigerator during camp. The camper might want to take a photo along to camp. Many camps now post camp photos to websites during the camp session.

~ Camp builds confidence and social skills and exposes youngsters to lots of outdoor activities.

~ For a shy child, maybe a school friend or buddy can go the same week. Having someone familiar nearby can help both of them.

~ The old snail mail post card, letter or care package will be treasured by every camper lucky enough to receive something once or twice at mail call. Yeah, they still do that!

~ All relationships need space, and summer camp is about the best way to provide that between school years. Your peace of mind comes with knowing your child will be occupied with fun activities and instant new friends. It’s a win-win for the whole family.

~ If your child has a particular bent, there’s probably a theme camp for him or her. There are many specialized learning camps, too. Your kid can guide the search for the perfect camp, and wherever it is, it is sure to have campfires and marshmallows.