Summer camp is an excellent opportunity for your children to learn new skills, make new friends, and have a little bit of independence. Unfortunately, it can also be difficult for them to be away from their parents for so long. It’s natural for a child to be a little anxious before a trip that will take them out of their element for several weeks, but too much anxiety can ruin the fun.
Let Her Choose. If your daughter is going to a summer camp that she is truly interested in, then the excitement can help keep the nerves at bay. You can achieve this by letting her pick what summer camp she wants to attend. There may be a location that she likes or that she has been to before, or a camp that offers specific activities that she’s interested in. Her friends may already be signed up for a specific program, which can also be a big motivator.
Discuss the Facts. When your son wants to know what it’s like to go to summer camp, focus on the concrete facts instead of abstract feelings. Talk about where everything is taking place, what the schedule will be like, and what he will need to bring with him. This will not only prepare him for what’s to come, but it will also give him something to think about that can distract him from his anxious feelings.
Don’t Encourage the Jitters. Parents sometimes have a bigger part in inspiring their children’s apprehension than they may realize. Asking questions such as, “Are you nervous about being away for so long?” can convey your own reservations, and children will pick up on that. Instead, try to focus on good feelings with questions like, “Are you excited about canoeing?” You could also simply say, “How do you feel about camp?” and let them share their own emotions. Also, don’t take too long to say goodbye when you drop them off. This only gives them more time to waver on their feelings about going.
Do a Practice Run. Before you child goes away for such a long trip, give her a chance to experience a night away from home. Whether it’s a sleepover at Grandma’s or at a trusted friend’s house, it can give your child the confidence for a bigger excursion.
Don’t Minimize Fears. If your child comes to you with concerns, don’t blow them off by simply saying that everything will be okay. Let him know that you understand that he’s nervous and that it’s a perfectly normal feeling. Share some of your own past experiences with camp so he can see how you overcame your fears.
It can be hard to watch your child suffer from pre-camp butterflies, but there’s a lot you can do to ease them. Lend an understanding ear and try to keep the excitement up by focusing on the concrete details. Before long, you’ll be receiving excited letters, emails and phone calls letting you know just how much fun they’re having.