CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) - Summer camp can be one of the best parts of childhood, but it can also be stressful for both child and parent. Dr. Tim Hope, a Clinical Psychologist, came onto Mass Appeal with some advice.
Why go to camp?
Exposure to diversity
Attune to nature
Instills leadership skills
Gives wonderful memories
Helps them make friends
Gets them active
Occupies the summer
How do you send your child to camp?
Sending your child to camp for the first time can be very difficult and stressful for everyone. So to help ease the transition, we compiled these tips and techniques shared by veteran camp families. We hope they will help you and your child prepare to embark on the adventure of a lifetime (even if you are both a little nervous about it!).
1. Involve your child in the decision-making processes related to camp, i.e., what classes to take, what clothes to take, cabin mate requests, what pictures to bring along, etc. Having ownership over even the smallest decisions will help your child by increasing his/her perceptions of control over the separation.
2. Practice letting your child be on his/her own. Make sure he/she makes the bed each morning, serves his/her plate at the table, gets dressed for the day without help, etc.
3. Let your daughters wash and fix their own hair. Many are perplexed at how to use a ponytail holder on their own and get it to successfully hold back all of their hair.
4. Show your child how to fold and pack their clothes neatly so he/she can keep them neatly stowed away.
5. Let your child be responsible for keeping up with his/her own belongings and resist the temptation to always pick up after him/her.
6. Help your child learn to shower, dress and prepare for either the day's activities or bedtime in a timely fashion. With many kids sharing a bathroom, time is often limited.
7. Teach your child to write and address a letter. Consider sending pre-addressed, stamped envelopes with him/her to make it easier. (Selfishly speaking, this will also greatly improve your chances of getting a letter from your youngster!)
8. Speak openly about the possibility of homesickness and help your child know how to defend against it. Don't promise to immediately pick him/her up if homesickness strikes or he/she doesn't immediately like camp. This will only send a message to your child that you are not confident he/she has the skills to cope with homesickness and can ultimately put you in a very difficult situation.
9. Practice good table manners with your child to prepare him/her for family-style dining. Teach him/her to appropriately use utensils, how to cut meat, etc.
10. Learn as much about camp in advance together with your child as possible. Arm him/her with names of staff members and what to expect by reviewing camp videos, brochures, mailings, web pages, etc. Walk through the first day so your child will be mentally prepared to leave you.
11. If possible, try to meet with other children who have or will be attending to let your child get to know them and ask questions in advance.
12. Resist the urge to tell your child over and over how much you will miss him/her and that you don't know what you will do without him/her at home. This will only make your child feel guilty for leaving you and increase the risk of homesickness. Instead tell him/her you will miss having him/her at home but know what a fantastic experience it will be and you can't wait to hear all about it.
13. Be sure to ask your child about any concerns or questions he or she has. If you can't answer them, talk to a camp staff member in advance so you can make sure your child feels confident.
14. If you have any specific concerns about your child's adjustment and comfort, please call the camp office in advance. They want to work with you to ensure a successful experience for your child.
15. Finally, think about ways to keep yourself busy so you don't worry as much about your children while they are gone. They won't be worried about you … they will be having too much fun!