Preparing Parents For Overnight Camp

If your child is going to overnight camp for the first time this summer, you may be beginning to feel some mixed emotions.  You are excited for them to begin this incredible adventure, but if you are being totally honest with yourself, you may also be experiencing some anxiety.  And that’s okay!  From the time they are born, our main focus as parents is to protect our children and make sure they are healthy and happy.  Having them venture out from our watchful eye can be worrisome, regardless of how much trust you have in the place they are going.  You may worry about what they will eat, if they will eat, if they will shower, brush their teeth, make friends, and the list goes on.  How do we monitor these feelings so we can support our children in this wonderful stage of life?

Back in January, we posted a blog about preparing first time campers for camp.  We talked about the steps parents could take to prepare their children for a successful camp experience.  Here we are months later, and your child has most likely mastered sleeping out, gained some independence taking care of themselves and spoken about some of their concerns about being away from home.  Like a pro, you have been supportive, encouraging, and reassuring them that they will love camp.  But what about you, and the sleep you may be losing at night thinking about your child leaving the nest for the first time???

Parents also need support and reassurance during this transition.  Talk to friends who have been through the first time camp experience.  They can most likely offer some guidance during this time.  If you have specific questions or concerns, call the camp.  Camp directors are more than happy to answer any concerns you may have, they are prepared to “coach” parents through this too.  They have your child’s best interest at heart and are invested in their happiness and success at camp. The only person you should not be sharing your anxiety with is your camper.  It’s important to support your child in this transition, and if they think you are upset they are leaving, they may have a harder time leaving to go to camp.  Children are very in tune to our feelings, and they will pick up on our fears and doubts.  Be positive.  Instead of saying how much you will miss them (and we know you will), tell them what a great time they will have and how you can’t wait to hear all about it.  If you express having confidence in them, they will feel confident.  If you have a nervous child, don’t tell them you will pick them up if they are homesick.  Many first time campers experience some degree of homesickness at first, but camps are prepared and knowledgeable in helping campers work through this time.

Letting go is never easy.  Summer camp is often a child’s first step in becoming more self-reliant and navigating the world.  What better place to gain independence than in a safe, nurturing and supportive environment.  So when you pull up to the camp bus and are saying your goodbyes, give great big hugs and kisses, and know that your child is embarking on a journey that will be filled with wonderful memories and stories that you will be hearing about for years to come.  And by the way…crying once the bus is out of sight is totally acceptable.