Camp, whether it's a day camp or sleepaway camp may offer parents a much needed break from kid-wrangling over the summer. Camp usually also becomes a wonderful experience for kids, too; but getting through that first day drop off can be challenging for both kids and parents. Here's how to make sure your journey to camp goes as smoothly as possible.
Ask Questions: An experienced camp program will have an extensive FAQ and/or will have no problem talking to parents with questions. If you have questions or concerns, don't be shy: write them down, and ask away until you feel comfortable.
Pack Right and Light: When it comes to packing especially for an extended sleepaway camp don't wing it. To ensure your little camper will have everything he or she might need, follow the program's recommendations before striking out on your own. Resist the urge to overpack or to include things "just in case." It's likely that the camp has many of those "just in case" items available.
Consult your Camper: Preparing for camp involves getting mentally ready, too. Even kids who may end up liking camp could be reluctant at first to go. Start talking to your child early about camp to ease them into the idea. Let them help with preparation and packing so they feel a part of the process. Ask your child what he or she is most nervous about, and then talk through some solutions to those scenarios.
Plan for Safe Play: Ease your mind by packing or making sure your child's camp has proper safety equipment (like life vests, helmets, etc.) appropriate to the activities they offer. Make sure your child has sturdy shoes, sunblock and bug spray, and that they know what to do in an emergency.
Give a Heads Up on Health (and Other) Concerns: Just because a child has a health condition doesn't mean they shouldn't go to camp. But it can make the experience a little more high stakes and stressful for both you and your child. Communicate with camp organizers about your child's condition, and teach your child to self-advocate if he or she is having a medical incident. Similarly, the American Camp Association of New England suggests that you let program directors know about any other significant issues your child is having (like recent trauma, mental illness, etc.), to ensure camp staff can more effectively work with your child.
Project Success: Your child is looking to you for cues about how to respond to this new, exciting experience. If you let them know you think they can do it and that they're going to have a great time, they're more likely to think that, too. Let them know that there may be a few challenges, but nothing they can't handle.
Prepare (Yourself) for Departure: Just like that first day you dropped them off at daycare or kindergarten, expect that on that first drop off, there will probably be some protesting or tears, even from slightly older children. And don't think it's going to be easy for you, either! Experts recommend that parents keep goodbyes short and sweet, and save their own meltdowns for the car.
Finally, be sure to make good use of the time away from your children. Have a night out, get some extra sleep, or indulge in a massage or extra workouts. Whatever you do, don't spend it worrying the kids will be back before you know it.
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