The Road to Happy Campers
Summer camp is a time-honored tradition, rich with activities, newfound friendships, and a lifetime of memories. Explore a few ways to make your child’s camp experience smooth sailing from start to finish.
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Overnight camps, typically in an outdoor setting, can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks and are generally offered for children ages 7 and up. If you aren’t sure your child is ready, allow him to spend the night at friends’ houses occasionally. Or, as Berkel suggests, take advantage of a weekend family camping opportunity, usually offered in the fall and spring to familiarize campers and their families with the facilities and staff.
Conquer camp blues
Preparation and an awareness of what to expect can ease the transition from home to camp. Before your child departs, go over a list of everything she will need. Pack a physical connection to home like a favorite sleeping bag, stuffed animal, or pillow.
Also, mail a card ahead of time to ensure it arrives before the end of camp. Tell your child how you look forward to hearing her camp stories, but avoid saying how much you miss her which can trigger homesickness and worry.
Fifteen-year veteran Boy Scout leader, soccer coach and father of eight, John Whiteside, is a camping pro. Over the years, he and his children have participated in multiple camps, including sports, band and weeklong scout camps.
Initial nervousness isn›t unusual. If your child asks to come home, Whiteside says to consider the situation, but to encourage him to discuss his anxieties with the camp counselor and take it one day at a time. “Tell him ‘Yes, today was hard, but I think it will be better tomorrow’ and usually tomorrow is better,” he says.
While your child may struggle at first, chances are he’ll come home a happy camper with a heightened sense of self-confidence, memorable stories, and a passel of new friends to boot.
Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines is the mom of two happy day campers and the author of Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life.