Summer camp season is about to be upon us. For kids, the first day of camp can be as terrifying as the first day in a new school — but worse, because everyone insists it’s supposed to fun.
One of my most wretched memories is of the first few days of my one and only sleep-away camp. I finally found my footing through a nighttime photography class on Evening Four. Too bad it was a five-day camp.
Earlier this year, even the American Academy of Pediatrics recognized that summer camp is not the right choice for every child. The group issued new guidelines in assessing a child’s readiness for summer camp.
For many, though, camp is a ritual that will, eventually, be enjoyed. Today, D.C. parenting coach Meghan Leahy shares with us her tips on how to best prepare the more anxious kids for camp.
l If your child is nervous about going to a new camp, don’t tell him to not worry about it. For young children, these feelings are real and worrisome, and the feelings do not get worse if you simply listen with an empathetic ear. Instead, help brainstorm solutions with the child so he or she feels empowered with a plan.
l If your child is feeling anxious, research whether the camp has an open house, walk-through or meet-and-greet. Inquire how nervous campers are handled with the head of the camp and see whether it fits with what you think is right for your child. Some camps “throw the kid right in” (which can work), and others give campers “buddies” to ease transitions.
l Ask the head of the camp whether there are families in your neighborhood also going to the camp.
l Children might be excited for camp and nervous to leave you. Allow them to carry a tiny lovey with them and accompany it with an encouraging story.
l Remember: Summer camps are meant to be fun, not resume-builders for little kids. Do not be overly concerned about how much your kids are learning about proper drawing technique or whether they have the backstroke down. Instead, listen for cues on how they are working in groups, solving problems, handling making new friends and learning new and fun skills.
l If it’s a day camp, ratchet down the activities during the first week.. No late barbecues or friends over. Instead focus on healthful family meals together and an early bedtime. Your kids are going to be exhausted, and you can avoid many a meltdown if you take play dates, pool visits and other activities off their plates for a while.
Is summer camp on your family’s agenda? What are your preparation strategies?