Parents want their children to experience an important rite of childhood””camp. Parents know that through experiences with nature, authentic relationships, and participation in human- powered activities, children develop independence, a sense of self-worth, and a greater understanding of the world around them. Simply put, camp changes lives. However, parents of first-time campers may be unsure of how to mentally prepare for this exciting adventure. The American Camp Association® (ACA) suggests keeping the following in mind as parents begin to prepare their children, and themselves, for camp:
Focus on education “” Camp provides an opportunity for children to explore a much larger world. It also offers parents and children a chance to practice normal, healthy separation, which allows children to develop autonomy and a stronger sense of self, make new friends, develop new social skills, learn about teamwork, and so much more.
Share the prep work “” Camp decisions, like what to pack, should be made together. When children feel that they are part of the decision-making process, they are more comfortable.
Talk, talk, talk “” It is only natural that as the first day of camp approaches, some children may experience uneasiness about going away. Encourage your child to talk about these feelings. Parents should let their child know that they are confident in the child’s ability to handle being away from home. Remind the child of other times they have been away from home successfully “” sleepovers with friends or family, etc.
Get real “” It’s important for children and parents to maintain realistic expectations. Camp is a microcosm of the real world, so just like life, there will be highs and lows. Parents should encourage realistic views of what camp will be like, discussing both the high points and the low points children may experience. Remind children that the most important thing is to relax and have fun at camp.
For more information about preparing for the summer camp experience, or to Find A Camp, parents can visit www.CampParents.org. This online resource for families includes expert advice, information on health and safety, and ACA’s searchable database of over 2,400 ACA-Accredited® camps.