3 Most Common Mistakes: New Summer Campers
Sidestep these pitfalls and send your kids off with a smile. by the Babble Staff
July 3, 2009
What are the three most common mistakes parents make when sending their children to camp for the first time?
Expert: Penny Warner, child development expert and author of Parent’s and Kid’s Complete Guide to Summer Camp Fun: Everything You Need to Prepare for an Incredible Camp Adventure!
1. Overlooking Separation Anxiety
“We may underestimate, or we may not even express, our fears that our child will have some separation anxiety and homesickness. I don’t want to think about my child being scared or unhappy, so I am going to focus on the good stuff, the fun. But, I think we just need to admit that there is this fear and deal with it ahead of time. You don’t want to talk the child into it – you don’t want to say ‘you’re probably going to be homesick.’ You want to open up the opportunity to chat about it: ‘you know I’ll be gone for the day, you’ll be having so much fun at the camp, but I’m going to come back and get you at 4:00 and then we’ll go have pizza.’ Minimize that fear that you’re never coming back. You might send along something from home to make that connection to home. For example, a picture of the family that you can tuck into a pocket or you can put one of his smaller toys in a pocket so that ‘whenever you think of mommy, just think about this little thing in your pocket.’”
2. Making Your Kid Stick It Out
“I think you need to know whether your child is ready for this. Even if you want to send your child to camp, he or she may not be emotionally ready or socially ready, so really try to evaluate that first. Has she spent the night away at a friend’s house or Grandma’s house? And how did that go? And then when it comes to that point where she comes home at the end of the camp day and is crying or she says ‘I don’t want to come back,’ chat about it first. Then, call the camp and find out if something went wrong or if there’s a reason why – maybe she’s just shy, hasn’t met a friend yet, maybe she didn’t do well at her swimming activity or whatever it might be – talk that up a little bit. Just make a promise to your child, ‘Let’s give it one more shot, and if you really don’t like it, I’m not going to force you to go.’ If your child is miserable, it is time to stop and try again next year. Your children will know that you respect them, because you’re willing to listen to them and do understand them.”
3. Treating Camp Counselors Like Teachers
“Recalibrate your expectations with the understanding that counselors are there to help your child have a fun and rewarding experience. Teachers have to get certain information across, but at camp, the children are there to be kids – to play pretty much all day. Camp counselors have more of a sense of humor, they’re more kid-like, and I think that makes them more approachable for children. So the difference between camp counselors and preschool or elementary school teachers provides a benefit, but you do have to talk to the kids about that. At the same time, don’t forget to help facilitate the experience by letting the counselors know if your child has any special needs, such as dealing with separation anxiety or occasional potty ‘accidents.’ Of course, if there’s something serious the counselors need to know, such as a peanut butter allergy or other medical condition, be sure to share this information, as you would with anyone who will come in contact with your child.”
As told to Emily Frost.