Tips for sending kids to overnight camps
By VANESSA VAN PETTEN
article created on: 2011-02-01T00:00:00
Every parent has mixed feelings about sending their kids away to summer camp. On the one hand, parents worry about crippling homesickness, vicious mosquitoes and untended skinned knees. Yet, these anxieties are tossed aside in the hope of their children embracing wholesome new friends, leaving behind video games for rope’s courses and learning to be independent.
How can parents prepare themselves and their children for the most successful summer away possible? Here are five tips for families who are planning on sending kids to overnight camp:
Keep doing research on your camp
Once families finally choose a camp for the summer, the research often stops. I highly encourage families to continue doing research. This will take some of the anxiety out of pre-camp jitters that usually creep in after school gets out. It also helps campers and parents be prepared for packing. If your camp has open houses, attend them and take a tour of the cabins and grounds. Even if you have already been to the camp for a visit, it helps to see a camp once you already know you are signed up. You can answer different kinds of questions, such as, is there a place for a shower basket in the bathroom? How many hooks does each bunk get? Would I prefer a top or bottom bunk?
Don’t fight the lack of technology
Many camps do not allow cell phones, computers or calls home. Since this is already a huge lifestyle change for tech-savvy kids and teens, it is important for parents to also follow along with electronics bans. Marjie Karlson, mother of two tweens in the Portland area says, “When I heard the sleep-away camp we were sending our kids to only allowed two parent calls the whole summer, I’m not going to lie, I began to freak out a little.” After speaking with the head of camp, Mrs. Karlson changed her tune; “I realized that I actually did want my kids to take a break from their devices and by freaking out I was making them more nervous by expecting to be the exception to the rule.” Although it might seem like a long time, the break from screens can be an amazing respite for kids and parents.
Not all problems stay at home
One of the biggest mistakes that parents make when sending their kids away to sleep away camp is thinking that problems that happen at home will not also happen at camp. It is important for parents to get really honest about issues that happen at home and what your child should do if they also occur at camp. Everything from picky eating to bullying to bed-wetting need to be discussed before your child has to call you from the camp office.
Do a practice pack
Packing can cause a lot of anxiety before leaving for camp, and if done incorrectly, can ruin a camp experience. Parents and children should do a ‘practice pack’ where they gather all of the items they are planning on bringing and packing the actual bag they plan on using a few weeks before leaving. This serves a few important purposes, first it prevents packing procrastination and families can make sure they have enough room for everything they need to bring. It is also a good idea for parents to look up both average lows and highs for the weather at their camp. Lastly, before your practice pack try calling a few alumni from the camp and ask them for their packing list or items that they felt were ‘essential’ to bring to camp.
Talk to kids about how to deal with new and sometimes difficult people
In an article titled, “The 6 Benefits of Sleep Away Camp,” (www.radicalparenting.com/2010/06/15/the-6-benefits-of-sleep-away-camp/) 14-year-old Sydney from Port Washington, NY writes, “From my experience at camp, I have come to the realization that not all personalities mesh oh so well.”
It is important for parents to talk to their kids about not only meeting new people, but also walk through how to deal with difficult personalities. This can be an incredible learning experience for your children as they get older.
Sydney says, “Learning to cope with everyone’s characteristics, such as who is sensitive and who forgets to think before they speak, has prepared me for the real world in which I’ll be faced with the same difficulty of working, or living with others.”
Sleep-away camp can provide many new learning experiences and growth opportunities for kids and teens if families work to take the proper steps to prepare.
“Being away from your family for weeks at a time may be hard at first, but it is essential to learning to act on your own,” Sydney poignantly says in her article.
The preparation will be well worth it when children return home from camp, and in addition to the blonde highlights, new freckles and funny stories, they have a new sense of independence.
Vanessa Van Petten wrote the parenting book “You’re Grounded!” at age 17. It received the Mom’s Choice Award in 2009. She also launched a popular parenting blog, RadicalParenting.com. Now 25, Van Petten is exploring a move to Portland. She has a new book due out from Penguin Press this spring.