In just a few weeks you may be sending your child off to camp. Whether it’s the first time they will be away from home or if they are a returning camper, it’s time for both of you to get ready!

And guess what? Even if you aren’t sending your kid to camp, these are good tips for everyday life!

Before Camp: Prepare & Practice

Camp may be the first time that your child will need to take full responsibility for themselves in a variety of situations. Now is the time to be sure they have the necessary knowledge & skills in these areas. You have a few weeks to let them practice while you are there to scaffold and support them.

 

Now is the time to be sure they have the necessary knowledge & skills in these areas. You have a few weeks to let them practice while you are there to scaffold and support them. Let them try, and fail, and learn.

 Life Skills – does your child know how to take care of:

  • Laundry – even if camp provides laundry service, your kiddo should know the basics of stain care and sorting.
  • Packing – do they have a clear idea of what they need, and don’t need – for their time at camp? Do some practice runs and guide them through it.
  • Healthy Eating Choices – involve your child in meal planning and meal prep so they will be ready to make good choices when faced with unfamiliar or vast amounts of food options.
  • Sleep Routines – realistically your child’s sleep routines will be interrupted, especially at the start of camp, but having healthy sleep routines before camp starts will help them get back on track more quickly.
  • First Aid & Illness – does your child know when to seek help and how to describe what they are experiencing? Do they have the knowledge to care for minor injuries so they don’t become more serious?

Emotional Skills – even if they are a return camper, there will be new people and relationships to navigate. Are they prepared to deal with:

  • New situations or challenges
  • Friendships
  • Conflicts
  • Feelings they may not have anticipated
  • Do they have self-regulation strategies that work when they become dysregulated (because we all do from time to time)?
  • Talk through scenarios – best and worst case, and do some role-play to be sure your child is prepared to manage their own emotions and responses.

Develop & utilize a consistent “check-in” system that can be continued when they are away at camp.

  • Thorn, bud, rose (a challenge, something that has the potential to be great, something to celebrate)
  • What’s your number? (on a scale of 1 – 5, 5 being amazing, how is your day going
  • Worst/Best (what was the worst/best thing about your day? End with the positive)
  • Model labeling feelings – kids need the vocabulary to describe their feelings, model it for them (“Ugh! I’m so frustrated with this computer program!” “My boss gave me feedback today that has me feeling really proud that I’ve worked through some challenges.”)

When your child shares their feelings, validate them, don’t minimize, dismiss, or try to change them.

  • “I hear that you are feeling (name the feeling). Is that right? Tell me more about that.”
  • Ask permission to provide perspective or solutions, they may just need you to listen.

Social Media Addiction (We all have it!)

Many camps are device-free, and even if your child’s camp allows kids to have access to their phones or devices, they will have a much richer experience if they can look up from their screens and become engaged with the people and experiences around them.

We know that social media can have a damaging impact on children’s self-image. According to the American Psychological Association, teens and young adults who reduced their social media use by 50% for just a few weeks saw significant improvement in how they felt about both their weight and their overall appearance compared with peers who maintained consistent levels of social media use.

Now is the time to set appropriate limits on screen time and the strongest tool you have to implement limits is YOU. Your child is watching what you do, so model appropriate screen time.

  • Make all meals screen-free for everyone.
  • When you find that you are doom-scrolling, stop yourself and call yourself out, “Ugh, I realize I’m getting lost in my screen, time to put it away!”
  • Name social media breaks – times when it’s OK to take a break from whatever is going on and check your social media accounts, and give yourself a hard stop to get back to real life.

Set the Stage for Success – conversations to have now

  • Camp Rules – be sure you and your camper are both clear on the published camp rules and consequences. Your child may make choices that surprise you both, so be prepared.
  • Family Rules & Values – now is the time to be sure you are clear about your shared vision and expectations for the choices your child may make.
  • Consent – this is a two-way street. Be sure your child is able to clearly state their boundaries and understands ways that others may be verbally or non-verbally communicating theirs.
  • Communication Expectations – does your child expect to receive an email from you every day? Do you expect to hear from them in return? What about care packages? Set the expectations now – your child may want you to email/write to them consistently but doesn’t intend to respond. If camp allows care packages and you don’t send any will your child feel neglected when peers are opening theirs?
  • Be honest with camp about concerns – I hear from too many camp directors that they learn about a child’s emotional or physical concerns too late when something has already become an issue. If you know your child has emotional or physical concerns that may impact their camp experience, share that with camp before your child arrives.

Take the time now to get you and your child ready for a great camp experience. Putting in the work now will allow you to fully relax and enjoy some time with your child away! Camp should be a fun time for your child and for you!

If you need support getting your child – or yourself – ready for camp, give me a call!