Dear Dr. Rene,
Our nine year old is signed up for his first sleep away summer camp. He is already a bit nervous about this. How do we best get him ready?
Mom of Three
First, start with empathy. Let him know that you understand he is nervous, and that it’s a perfectly understandable way to feel. This lets him know that he can talk to you about his feelings and concerns. When he brings it up, it might be helpful to ask more specifically what he’s worried about so you can’t directly address the issues. There are lots of ways to help him feel better.
- Tell your own interesting and happy camp stories – Kids love to hear about their parents’ experiences, keep it upbeat. Ask other family and friends to share their stories as well.
- Visit the camp’s website – Download any maps or schedules and view any pictures or videos. If there isn’t a specific schedule available online, ask if one can be sent.
- Request to be in contact with other families – Your camp might be able to put you in touch with other families planning to attend. Any connections you can help your child to make may be helpful. This may be writing letters or emails, connecting through social media or meeting up if they live close by.
- If they haven’t slept away from home, practice before camp starts – It might be helpful to have them spend a night or two away with family or friends before going away to camp.
- Give him a small calendar to mark camp and other important events – Mark things like Spring Break, the end of school, parties, their morning swim schedule and Summer Camp. The may help him to get excited about upcoming events and count Camp like other positive events. He can also take this with him and mark down days til he gets back home.
- If it’s available, plan to send him daily mail – The idea is to start mailing one thing a day a few days before he goes to camp, so he’s likely to receive something each day.
- Let them know the counselor and director are there to help him – Just like their teachers and their principal at school, their counselors and director are there for them. Be sure he knows he can ask them if he needs help.
- When the time is close, have them help you shop for camp items and help pack – It can be helpful to pack a favorite t-shirt or their lovey.