You've completed the paperwork and packed your child's bags. All that's left to do is prepare your child emotionally.
Summer camp can be an overwhelming prospect for some children, but the experience can also be quite beneficial. According to family therapist and author Michael Ungar, Ph.D., who writes the Nurturing Resilience blog for Psychology Today, summer camp can help children become more resilient to life stressors, and are ideal places for children to optimize their psychosocial development.
To help your child get ready for summer camp, whether day or overnight, consider implementing the following tips:
Do a Trial Run to the Camp
If your child is taking a bus to the camp, find out the route it will take, and drive it with your child. Point out landmarks on the way, so your child will be able to familiarize him or herself with the trip. When your child ends up on the bus, he or she will feel much calmer when he or she has already seen everything before with you.
Involve Your Child in Preparation
As you're packing lunch, swimming items, and other needed items for the day, have your child help you get everything he or she will need. This will make your child think of the time he or she will have, and what may be needed, which will help with feeling more comfortable about the day ahead. It can also heighten the excitement because he or she will most likely start thinking about how much fun he or she will have participating in the day's activities.
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Open the Lines of Communication
Ask your child if he or she has any questions or concerns about summer camp. Do not minimize their fears and anxieties. Allow your child to express him or herself, and provide comfort. Answer questions simply and talk about it as much as he or she needs to days before summer camp begins.
If your child doesn't talk about it, don't push it. He or she may not be as affected by the thought of summer camp as you may think. Just be available and open to any reactions.
Review Camp Information Together
It's likely the camp will send a packet of information, especially if it's an overnight camp. Review it with your child and discuss it, as you go through everything.
Camps often only allow a finite number of contacts to parents through phone or email. Explain this and other important information to your child and relate it to something similar to what you do at home. For example, you may only call grandma once a week, so your child understands.
Talk It Up
Right before your child gets on the bus or on your way to dropping your child off, get excited with your child. Inform your child that this will be a great experience, and that this will be time he or she will remember for the rest of his or her life. Maybe even share with them your own summer camp experience and how much fun you had. Or, if they have an older sibling or neighbor, get them together so your child can hear about their peers' experience.
Taking the time to prepare your child is one of the best things you can do for him or her. Not only will he or she be able to use what you're teaching him or her now, but later in life too. Feel proud as a parent that you're giving your child the tools that he or she needs to become a competent and confident adult someday.