Often, the biggest question to ask is, “Are you ready as a parent to let your child go?” Children are like little membranes – they pick up all of the subtle emotions of their parents. It helps to be clear with yourself about what your child signed up for in the first place; whether it is to make new friends, learn new skills, or try out some new exciting activity or program. Think of camp as life experience with training wheels.
Here are some tips for parents to help you and your child(ren) get ready for the adventure of camp:
- Go by the site of camp or take a tour (even if the set up might be different). Just by becoming familiar with the space and knowing where to go helps!
- Together with your child(ren) go to the camp’s website and look at available photos, pictures, albums, etc. from previous years. Click here to see the 15-second flipagram (video slideshow) Camp Spirit created to share with everyone.
- Read the Camp registration letter together. Talk about what they need to bring. Involve them in the decision making process (and the packing), for example, by letting them choose a special water bottle or hat and having them decorate it. Even in the planning out of their breakfast menu during the week of day camp helps them be engaged in thinking about what to expect in the days ahead.
- Spend some time exploring their hopes and questions for the week. The more detailed the response to questions and concerns, the better. A parent's words will help children draw the picture in their heads as to what camp is going to look like. Not sure how to respond? Let them know you will find out and get back to them after contacting the camp coordinator.
- It also helps to have a few conversations with your child, before they head off to camp. Here are a few things you can say – not all at once, but a little over time in the week or two before they go to camp:
Camp is about making some of the best friends of your life. It's an exercise in self-reliance and social learning. Children not only make some of their best friends at camp, they learn what real friendship is. Since campers connect in groups, it is also about learning the give-and-take of making decisions and getting along with all those "brothers" or "sisters" you suddenly inherit when you arrive. In a time when resilience – the ability to stick with something and recover from a setback – is a great quality to cultivate in our children, camp is an increasingly attractive option. I can't tell you how many parents have told me how much more confident, calm, purposeful or focused their children seem after a couple of weeks of camp.
Whatever we can do as parents, as caring adults, to support a child in going to camp, making a smooth first time transition and embracing the experience will go far in helping them enjoy this life transforming experience!
Minister with Children, Families & Elders
St. Andrew’s Wesley United Church