Schools out and summer camp is on the horizon. Some kids wait all year for camp. It’s the chance for independence, new friends, no homework and the making of memories they’ll share for years in retold camp stories. The wrong camp experience through can be a terrible ordeal for both kids and parents.
Jeremy J. Fingerman is the CEO of the New York based Foundation for Jewish Camp which represents more than155 nonprofit camps in North America.
There are so many benefits to attending camp,” Fingerman said. “Besides trying new activities and honing skills, campers make lifelong friends. They also gain independence and confidence and they learn about team work and leadership.”
He offered several tips for parents getting ready to send their kids away.
Start getting your kids ready for camp a few weeks ahead of time. If your child hasn’t gone to an overnight camp before, have them spend a night or two at a friend’s or relative’s house for practice.
“I suggest parents talking to your camper about everything related to camp,” Fingerman said. “Start by asking if there is anything he may be nervous about and reassure him that a little homesickness is perfectly normal.”
If you’re nervous about sending them off to camp let them know that but don’t make them more nervous.
“It’s important to explain that you will miss them too but you’re so excited for the fun he is going to have at camp,” Fingerman said. “If you went to camp, tell your child how you were nervous or homesick and how everything worked out. “
Get your son or daughter involved in the packing. Ask the camp for a checklist of things to bring and make it an event to go shopping and then pack. This way, Fingerman said you can show your camper what is making the trip to camp, what can’t go, and how to do other necessities, such as where to put laundry and how to address a letter.
When They’re There
Once you child is at camp realize that you have to give your kids a chance to adapt to camp.
“Camps have expertise in fun opening day activities and great meals designed to make campers feel excited to be at camp and a part of their new camp community,” Fingerman said. They also train staff members to be ready to deal with homesick kids.”
If your child really does appear to be homesick, talk with the camp director to figure out the severity of the homesickness. If after all that the director seems to think they aren’t ready for camp then go get them and try again next year.
When They Get Home
Children have learned a lot of new things including independence at camp. Help them carry those skills into the new skill year by exploring options in your community to continue a new hobby and help them stay in touch with their camp friends.
“…Encourage your camper to keep in touch with his camp friends throughout the school year,” Fingerman said. “If they have shared interests, they may encourage each other to use the new skills gained at camp.”
What was you favorite part of the camp experience?