Practical & emotional tips to prepare your child for camp

Packing their trunk is easy. Saying goodbye is hard. Often, it’s the emotional side of camp that can be the trickiest part to deal with… for both kids and their parents. Keep the lines of communication open in the weeks leading up to camp, discuss fears and anxieties, try to stay positive but equip your kids with the skills to cope when things go wrong. It’s also important that they feel prepared in a practical sense. We’ve got some easy tips to help make the transition to camp a smooth one and ensure they are keen to return year after year.

Emotional

Prepare for landing

No matter how prepared you are, the reality of actually being dropped off at camp is usually always overwhelming (for everyone!). It can be helpful to make sure your child is clear on the details prior to arriving at camp, so that even in the midst of the tears you can remind them how confident they are and encourage them that “they’ve got this”. Do your research and find out a few practical details:

  • Will there be counselors waiting to greet your child at the entrance?
  • Do you drive them to the entrance or will they be catching a bus?
  • Who will be walking your child to their cabin?
  • Are there any forms that need to be filled out or can this be done ahead of time?

Keep the drop-off short and sweet. As a parent, you will most likely feel emotional, but try to save the tears for your trip home. If your child sees that you are upset it can lead to feelings of guilt. So whack a smile on your face, give them a quick hug and kiss then allow them to jump in and get started.

Keep correspondence short and sweet

Camp is a great way to engage in some good old fashioned letter writing. Give your child a set of Personalised Camp Postcards (pre-fill the address details for them) so that they’re encouraged to write home (but don’t be upset if they forget!).

When you write, it’s important to keep the details light and cheery. Avoid communicating any bad news that might cause them anxiety (“Grandma has been in hospital”) and try not to give them a sense that they are missing out on any fun (“We’re taking your sister to Disneyland!”). It’s also really important that you don’t write anything that might make them feel guilty about being away (“Your mom has been crying non-stop since you left”). Keep it positive, ask questions that will encourage them to write back and keep reiterating that you are so excited about this experience and can’t wait to hear all about it when camp ends.

Image: Tigerlilly Quinn
Image: Tigerlilly Quinn

Manage their expectations

As a parent, it’s our natural instinct to instill confidence by reassuring our kids they are going to LOVE new experiences. When it comes to camp it can be tempting to become overenthusiastic; tell them there’s nothing to worry about and share stories of our own incredible experiences. Being positive is great, but it’s wise not to overdo it. You need to manage their expectations, and help them to understand that there will be some bumpy times. Help reassure your kids that it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous, and that the first few days might be a bit tough. Come up with some plans to help them overcome feelings of sadness and anxiety (write letters, look at photos from home, cuddle a favourite toy). If you build them up to believe camp will be one, smooth experience it might throw them completely off-balance at the first bump in the road.

Practical

Label everything!

With over 20 year’s experience of helping families to get organized for camp, we understand the importance of labelling! Sit down with your kids prior to camp and order a bunch of name labels. Consider a Value Pack that contains laminated vinyl labels, iron on clothing labels, shoe labels, and a range of sizes to suit everything from bedding and towels to sunscreen and socks. Allow children to choose their own design icon to sit on the label, so that they can easily identify their belongings. They might not return with everything they left with, but with easy-to-read name labels you can be sure that most of it will come home.

Image: Dress Like a Mum
Image: Dress Like a Mum

Practice the little things

Camp is an opportunity for your child to practice their independence skills. It’s important that you practice a few of these practical habits so that they feel confident without mom and dad around to help out. For example:

  • If your daughter has long hair it’s important she keeps it brushed and clean. Help her master a basic ponytail or other hairstyle and be sure to pack plenty of hair elastics
  • Teach your children how to deal with their laundry, and explain that they need to keep dirty clothes in a separate bag
  • If they will be required to walk to and from the bathroom in the dark, teach them how to use a flashlight or headlamp and how to navigate pathways in the dark
  • Remind them that wet towels need to be hung on their bunk or in the bathroom
  • Make sure they are familiar with their toiletries, and talk to them about how they will transport their gear to and from the bathroom. Remind them to keep lids screwed on tightly to avoid spillages.

Break in new shoes and equipment

It’s a small but important tip, because nothing can ruin your child’s first week at camp like a massive blister (or three!). If your child has new shoes, it’s vital that you break them in before heading off to camp. They should also get used to using new equipment, such as swimming goggles. If your daughter has a new swimsuit, make sure she is comfortable with how the straps fit as it can be frustrating to get tangled when in a hurry! Help ensure they are familiar with opening and closing their toiletry bottles, replacing batteries in their torch and refilling their water bottle.

For all your personalized camp gear, check out the Stuck On You website.

Feature image: Little Years

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