5 Signs Your Child is Ready for Sleep-Away Camp by Jennifer Kelman

Summer Camp 2012 Junior Camp
source: DioceseFDL

As the winter begins to wrap up and we all look forward to the dog days of summer, some decisions need to be made. Some parents are not sure about when it is the right time to send their children to sleep-away camp. I don’t believe that there is an exact age that is the “right” age; it is more about the readiness that your child exhibits that lets you know she can handle being away from home.

Here are 5 signs your child may be ready for sleep-away camp:

1. Your child begin expresses an interest in going to camp

This is an easy sign that lets you know your child is ready.  As your child develops peer relationships in school and begins spending more time with her friends away from you, she may verbalize her desire to go to camp.

2. Your child is able to spend longer periods away from you without being upset.

Your young child might express a desire to have a sleepover with a friend; but once the child is at the friend’s home, she may become anxious and want to come home. If this is the case, wait until your child can have sleepovers without being upset or returning home.

3. Your child gets along well with her peers.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but if your child is displaying any behavioral problems at home or school, most likely these will follow her to camp, Your child needs to be able to get along with others, as this is a major part of her growth at camp.

4. Your child is able to follow directions from leaders.

There are so many wonderful things that your child will learn at camp. Being able to follow directions and respect the counselors and group leaders is a necessary skill in order to be away from home. Often, kids who are away from their parents may think they have free reign to do and say whatever they please, so it is important to discuss this aspect with your child and make sure she is capable of handling it while she is away from your watchful eye.

5. Your child is asking to attend the type of camp that fits her needs.

It is possible to have your child be ready for camp but choose the wrong type of camp. Some camps emphasize sports and others theater or science. It is crucial that you don’t place your child in an athletic camp if her desires and talents are in other areas. Your child will more than likely feel out of place, and this can be a set-up for failure.

Figuring out the right time for your child to attend sleep-away camp may be tricky, but paying attention to the signs she is ready may help make the process a bit easier. Do not push a child to go before she is ready. Even if your child expresses the interest to go to camp, it is still possible that she may get home-sick as she acclimates to her new environment. Just remember this is normal and should pass as she becomes entrenched in camp life, which is a rewarding and growth-producing experience.

Would you add any more signs that your child is ready?

Jennifer Kelman has a BA in Sociology from American University and a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has worked with children in a variety of psychiatric and medical settings. She is the creator of Mrs. Pinkelmeyer, who inspires self-esteem in children through her love, warmth and silliness and author of the new award-winning children’s book, Mrs. Pinkelmeyer and Moopus McGlinden Burn the Rrrrump Rrrroast.

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. Click on photo for source.

Is Your Child Homesick?

June-24_homesick_teen.jpgFor many families in today’s plugged in society, camp is the first real separation they have experienced — and many parents may be worried about homesickness — both for their happy camper and for themselves.

Research indicates that it is common for campers and parents to feel a tinge of homesickness at some point during the camp session. So how can parents help?

The American Camp Association® (ACA) recommends the following do’s and don’ts families can use to help deal with homesickness.

  • DO encourage independence throughout the year. Practice separations, such as sleepovers at a friend’s house, can simulate the camp environment.
  • DO involve your child in the process of choosing a camp. The more that the child owns the decision, the more comfortable the child will feel being at camp.
  • DO understand the camp’s philosophy on how issues, like homesickness, are addressed. Talk candidly with the camp director to understand his/her perspective on your child’s adjustment.
  • DO discuss what camp will be like before your child leaves. Consider role-playing anticipated situations, such as using a flashlight to find the bathroom.
  • DO reach an agreement ahead of time on calling each other. If your child’s camp has a no-phone-calls policy, honor it.
  • DO send a note or care package ahead of time to arrive the first day of camp. Acknowledge, in a positive way, that you will miss your child. For example, you can say "I am going to miss you, but I know that you will have a good time at camp."
  • DO pack a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal.
  • DON’T bribe. Linking a successful stay at camp to a material object sends the wrong message. The reward should be your child’s new found confidence and independence.
  • DON’T plan an exit strategy. If a "rescue call" comes from the child, offer calm reassurance and put the time frame into perspective.
  • DON’T feel guilty about encouraging your child to stay at camp. For many children, camp is a first step toward independence and plays an important role in their growth and development.
  • DO trust your instincts. While most incidents of homesickness will pass in a day or two, approximately 7 percent of the cases are severe. If your child is not eating or sleeping because of anxiety or depression, parents should work with the camp director and other camp staff to evaluate the situation.
  • DO remember that camp staff are trained to ease homesickness.
  • DON’T make your child feel like a failure if their stay at camp is cut short. Focus on the positive and encourage your child to try camp again next year.

For more information on homesickness or expert advice on camp, visit www.CampParents.org. Families can search ACA’s Find a Camp database, which allows families to look for a camp based on region, activity, cultural focus, budget, session length, and much more! In addition, families can follow ACA on Facebook and Twitter for helpful hints and camp information.


Packing for Camp

We ran across this great information from the American Camp Association (ACA) about packing for camp and thought parents might find it useful for kids who are going to camp the second half of summer. The ACA encourages parents to contact their camp for specific packing lists and guidelines. In addition, the ACA suggests the following guidelines for parents to keep in mind when packing for camp:

  • Headgear – Parents should pack items to protect a camper from the sun: scarves, bandannas, baseball caps, or sunhats, as well as needed eyeglasses, sunglasses, and swimming goggles.19-Ropers.jpg
  • Clothing – Clothing is a necessary component of camp, just do not expect any to return home clean! Include T-shirts, a swim suit, and shorts for hot days; a jacket, sweatshirt, and jeans for cool or cold days; and a raincoat or poncho for rainy days. Also, long pants will protect a camper from poison ivy, bugs, and thorns during hikes.
  • Footwear – Appropriate footwear is one of the most important items to pack for children at camp, especially when they are hiking, spelunking, running, and heading to the beach. Consider packing boots, tennis shoes, sandals, lots of socks — and dress shoes if the camp requires them. Remember that shoes should be broken in prior to the start of camp.
  • Bed and Bath Needs – For children attending a resident camp, parents should remember to pack the home basics: towels, as well as a blanket, pillow, pillow cases, sheets, sleeping bag, laundry bag, and mattress pad. Bathroom Kits are essential. Families should pack a brush and comb, shampoo, soap and soap container, toothbrush and holder, toothpaste, deodorant, insect repellent, sun block, and lip balm with sun block in it.
  • Additional Items – Pack some additional items including books and magazines, flashlights and batteries, Frisbees® or other toys, a water bottle, and writing materials. When considering electronics, musical instruments, and other special gear, check with the camp about policies. 

Decisions about camp, including from what to pack, should be made together as a family. When children participate in the decision-making process, their likelihood of enjoying a positive experience is improved.

For expert advice on what to pack, or preparing for camp, visit ACA’s parent resource site at www.CampParents.org.

Where are you sending your kids to camp this summer? Tell us about your camp experience!