by Meredith Teasley
Kids grow up way too fast, and before you know it, they are asking to go to camp. Maybe you want your own child to have the same experience you had at a summer camp as a kid. This can be a scary time with lots of questions. Is my child ready to go to camp? Will he take a shower? Eat? Get homesick? Take a deep breath, and keep reading.
These tips can help you prepare your child for camp:
Do your research. What type of camp is it? What do kids do all day? How far is the camp from home? As a parent, read up on the camp as much as you can. Talk with parents who have been before. Review the schedule. Learn what the camp values and promises to offer.
Talk about it. Talk with your future camper about what to expect at camp. Use phrases like, “If you were at camp right now, you’d be…” to help your child get a good idea of what the schedule will look like. Don’t forget to discuss hygiene, because sometimes kids will forget.
Prepare together. Read the packing list carefully and help your child pack for camp. While you are packing, label everything! In fact, you may even want to pack each day’s clothes in a separate plastic bag, making it even easier for your child.
Write letters. Encourage your child while he is away at camp. You could even put each letter in with that day’s bag of clothes.
See camp as a growth experience. For many kids, camp is a turning point in maturity, independence, and responsibility. Embrace it. Help your child prepare, and then watch her flourish in a new environment with new friends and trusted leaders. When she comes home, focus on the experience, not the sock she lost along the way.
Tips are great, but you may still be asking, “Is my child ready to attend an overnight camp?”
Here are five signs that kids are ready:
The child enjoys staying overnight with grandparents and friends.
On vacation, the child adjusts well to a new environment and a change of pace.
The child can shower and dress his/herself, brush teeth and hair, and put sheets or a sleeping bag on a bed.
The child enjoys talking about camp, and does not cry or shut down when you mention the topic.
You are ready. Many times, a parent can hold back a child because they’re nervous. Your readiness will affect their readiness.
Still nervous? Does your child want to go to camp but struggle with homesickness? If so, consider these tips for calming children who are nervous about being away from home:
Try a test run. Let your camper stay at a grandparent’s house or with a trusted friend. Having been away from home before, she is likely to do better at camp. You may even want to try two nights away from home to help calm nerves.
Talk about trusting God when you are apart. Mention that God protects us when we are away from one another. Many kids worry about their parents when they are away, and do not want to miss what’s happening back home.