Preparing for Camp
Wondering about how to prepare for an overnight camp?
You aren’t alone! Every new camper and their parents have wondered the same thing. Any new experience is a combination of excitement and anxiety about the unknown. There are many strategies you can use to help prepare your child for overnight camp.
- Practice being away from home. This is a case where practice helps! Slumber parties, a weekend at a relative’s house, or any other night away is a step toward your child building confidence in her ability to sleep away from home. It can help your daughter understand what it’s like to be out of her routine, even a little. How does her friend’s family eat dinner? Does her friend brush her teeth before or after reading time? What is it like to do things outside of her own routine? Being away from home can give your daughter a chance to experience feelings of missing home, practice coping skills, and then talk to you about the whole experience.
- Involve your child in the decision. It isn’t surprising to hear that studies show having a negative attitude toward going to camp or feeling like they are forced to attend are both predictors for kids having a harder time at camp. Keep your child involved in the process of picking camps and share as much information about the camps as possible. Knowing the schedule, activities, sleeping arrangements, location of the dining hall… these all can contribute to a child’s sense of control over the situation. Knowledge is power!
If you or your child have any questions about what Clearwater is like, please ask! Talking to someone from camp can be helpful too! We can connect you with a camp family or staff member in the area who can answer questions in person or over the phone!
- Your child will miss home. That is completely normal. Your child will miss home, and so will every other camper and staff member this summer! Letting your child know that it is normal to miss home can lead to a conversation about coping strategies and help them to be open about their feelings. Strategies might include looking at a family photo, writing a letter home, or staying occupied with an activity they like. On the other hand, if you let your child know you think they will be hopelessly homesick, chances increase that they will be! It is important to normalize missing home, but not to set an expectation that it will be overwhelming or overpowering for them. Missing home is a small part of the experience. Remember, camp is going to be really, really fun!
- You will miss your child. That is completely normal. You might be having a harder time thinking of your child being away for the summer than your child is. You wouldn’t be the first parent to feel that way. It’s ok to miss your kids, that means you like them! The important point here is to watch how you communicate that. Studies have shown that kids who report high perceived levels of parental anxiety often have harder times being away. If you need support, look to peers, other adults, or even ask us for a name of a nearby camp parent to talk with.
- Two things to avoid. At Clearwater we have seen thousands of campers who miss home to varying degrees. Based on decades of experience, we have found two things to make homesickness worse. The first is that phone calls home almost always make the camper more upset. Calling home seems to give the camper a glimmer of hope they can leave, hear that their parents miss them terribly, and take them out of the community we are trying hard to encourage them to join! Of course, if there is ever any medical issue or other serious situation with your daughter, we will let you know!
The second thing to avoid is making a “pick up deal.” Don’t promise your daughter you will pick her up if she doesn’t like camp. Instead of being reassuring, this can lead to a camper resisting coping strategies in order to feel ‘bad enough’ to get picked up.
Our goal is for your daughter to have a stellar time at camp! Our staff members are well-trained and many of them were campers themselves, which uniquely qualifies them to relate to campers about missing home. Here are some links to helpful resources on preparing for summer camp, strategies about missing home, and other helpful tips! Again, please contact us with any and all questions about Clearwater!
Homesick and Happy, a book by Dr. Michael Thompson
Please let us know if you have any questions! Although missing home is common, it is unusual that it seriously impacts campers’ experiences. We would love to talk with you more if you are concerned about you daughter’s experience!