Sleep-away Camp: Ambivalence for the Kids and You

My first memories are of Girl Guide camp in Canada, where we slept in tents and cooked our meals over an open fire. After many experiences at camp, I met my husband when we were both counselors in the mountains of North Carolina. And camp has been a family tradition ever since.

What about you? Just as you’re settling into the lazy days of summer, are you shifting gears to get the kids ready for sleep-away camp? If this is a first, there may be ambivalent feelings all around. In new situations, there are many unknowns, and it’s easy to let them get the best of you. Yet camp can be a great opportunity for kids to develop their independence, strengths and interests. ‘Camp is full of possibilities,’ says one dad who is savoring memories as his sons talk about their summer at camp.

NIZHNY NOVGOROD REGION, RUSSIA. JUNE 27, 2010. A girl leaves for a summer camp. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Denis Rusinov) Photo via Newscom

But, like any new experience, the anticipation leading up to departure can cause anxiety for your kids and for you. Because you focus so much on their needs, it may be hard to step back and not worry: What if the girls in her bunk are mean to her? What if he doesn’t shower regularly? Perhaps you’ll find it easier to let go if you feel your kids are well prepared. So after you check off the items on the packing list, sew the labels in all their clothes and give instructions about reapplying sunscreen and staying hydrated, read this. Here the Centers for Disease Control provides tips for kids to stay safe and healthy at camp.

You know your kids and what will set their minds at ease. Talking to others about the fun times of camp can be reassuring to a child who’s not sure what to expect. Perhaps if they’re aware that feeling lonely the first couple of days is normal, they won’t be surprised if it happens. Why not write a letter that will be waiting for them at camp, as well as pack a special item from home, so they’ll realize that you’re thinking about them? And know that the counselors will help them get into the flow of the program. This PBSkids article sheds light on the subject of homesickness.

See this as the first day of the rest of your family life. At camp your kids will gain confidence while making new friends and developing lifelong skills. Trust that they can take care of themselves. In this article about how to love your kidults by letting go, the focus is on emerging adult children. Consider that you’re getting a head start – today sleep-away camp, tomorrow college!

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