The funny thing about first time overnight campers is that 95% of them have a great first summer camp experience and usually it is a result of well-intentioned parents when campers have a difficult time. Here are some pointers to make sure you do not fall into that trap of inadvertently communicating some negative messages to your children about overnight camp:
Do not tell your kids “if you do not like it they can come home after a week”. The goal as a parent should be to increase your child’s self-confidence. As long as each day gets better for your camper, agreeing to let them come home from summer camp after a certain amount of time only reduces their confidence and hinders their ability to self-manage. Tell them to trust the staff to support them and guide them while at overnight camp.
Do not repeat over and over again how much you will miss your child. That tells them that you, or their sister or brother or even the dog will suffer without them and that will cause them grief. Just say I love you, and can’t wait to hear about your new friends and activities and all about your counsellors. Tell them how proud you are they are taking this big step to go to summer camp and you want them to enjoy every minute of their summer.
Do encourage your child to come to camp with their security blanket, doll, animal, or locket. Many campers do this!
Do encourage them to go on sleepovers to grandparents, friends and relatives but don’t worry if they have a difficult time with a sleep over. It is not essential to succeed with a sleepover but if they are open to first trying a sleepover at a family member this is a wonderful way to prepare them for summer camp.
Do try to keep the siblings together even if the older one is negative about having their fellow sibling at camp. 50% of the older sibling’s will say they do not want to be with the younger one but having the older child there is a sense of comfort for the first time overnight camper. Older children at camp also tend to enjoy taking on responsibility for their younger sibling since Mom and Dad are not around and it makes them feel special.
Do not over pack and do have your child involved in the packing process so they feel excited and in control when then unpack at camp.
Do not expect every letter to be wonderful. Young first time campers will tend to write home when they are upset. This is normal, as they are not used to having other people assist them in solving their problems. By the time you get the letter in most cases the issue has been dealt with! And for the first time they will learn the greatest benefit of summer camp: that they can be more independent and with assistance from other adults solve their own problems.
But do contact us if you have a concern or are feeling anxious.