NEW YORK – Thousands of children board buses each summer with destination “Summer Camp” a few hours’ ride away. For many families the camp experience has been a long-standing tradition; for others camp is a new adventure ready to be explored.
“As parents, recognizing that you and your child are growing and learning is key to adequately preparing yourself and your child for any type of separation, including going to camp for the first time,” says Peg Smith, executive director of the American Camping Association.
Though the separation may at first be overwhelming for both the children and parents who have yet to be apart for more than a few days, there are certain measures to take to ensure that the camping experience becomes a treasured event to look forward to each year. The American Camping Association has some advice to help you plan for summer camp.
Separation is a part of growing up. Camp can be an opportunity to give a child independence in safe, structured surroundings with caring adults. Understanding that healthy separation can prepare a child to be a confident, productive adult, sometimes makes the process more successful.
Separation is natural and necessary. For parents it is important to remember their baby’s first crawl, the first time their child stepped onto a school bus, the overnight at a friend’s or relative’s – these were all-important developmental phases successfully encountered. And with each successful separation a child gains confidence for the next challenge.
Parents choosing a camp should ask the right questions about the camp, and be sure they are matching the child’s interest and age to the appropriate camp atmosphere. Knowing about the camp makes sending the child to camp easier.
Preparing the child.
While summer may seem far away, February is the ideal time to start making summer camp preparations. Well-known camps usually book fast, and there is planning to consider that may make the child’s camp experience more fun and rewarding.
Consider the following suggestions from the camping association to increase the opportunity for a rewarding camp experience:
* Consider camp as a learning experience. This is an opportunity for a child to explore a world bigger than his or her neighborhood and a chance for parent and child to practice “letting go.”
* Prepare for camp together. Decisions about camp – where to go and what to pack – should be a joint venture, keeping in mind the child’s maturity. If a child feels a part of the decision-making process, the chances of having a positive experience will improve.
* Talk about concerns. As the first day of camp nears, some children experience uneasiness about going away. Talk about these feelings. Communicate confidence in his or her ability to deal with being away from home. Have realistic expectations. Camp, like the rest of life, has high and low points. Every moment is not filled with wonder and excitement.
* Encourage children to have a reasonable and realistic view of camp. Discuss both the ups and downs the child may encounter. Make sure he or she does not feel pressure to succeed at camp. For the child, the main purpose of camp is to relax and have fun.