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Summer camp provides children an amazing experience full of opportunities that allow for and encourage growth and development. My children have all gone to summer camp where they’ve learned new things, made new friends, and experienced adventure. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that helped my children, and myself, deal with the overwhelming sensation of separation and homesickness that can often come with summer camp.
Start small. There are so many different summer camps available. Some are simply day camps, some are overnight camps; there are week long camps, month long camps and camps that your child will spend their entire summer at. I suggest starting small with a local day camp. My children have participated in sports-themed summer day camps, education themed summer day camps, etc. The options are endless, so do some research and start there. Once your child has spent some time at a day camp they might be ready for an overnight camp then a week long camp and so on. Build up and allow your child to be comfortable with the idea of camp before being shipped off for the summer.
Research together. Spend time with your child on the computer (or in person if you’re allowed) exploring the summer camp. What kinds of activities will be available? Where will they sleep? What food will be available to eat? This will allow you to spend some quality one-on-one time with your child while they share with you the things they’re excited about and the things they’re nervous about. It will also help you feel more confident and secure knowing what your child will be experiencing while away from home.
First day. Spend a little extra time helping your child pack for summer camp. Pick out a few items that will remind your child of home. For instance, a framed family photo, blanket, or any other comforting item that reminds them of home sweet home! If possible, help your child unpack their belongings and feel comfortable in their new bunk space, but be careful not to overstay your welcome – you’ll be walking a fine line. When your child starts looking and feeling more comfortable, say a heart-felt goodbye and reassure them that you’re only a phone call away.
You care. Care packages are always a huge hit – especially if they are unexpected! Depending on the length of your child’s stay at camp a care package may or may not be appropriate. A care package will let your camper know that you’re thinking about them along with providing them with a little piece of home. Some must-have items to include: homemade cookies, their favorite snack, crackers, or candy. If there’s a snack bar at camp your child can access in between meals or a supply center where your child can buy nick-knacks then cash will be greatly appreciated, too. Regardless of what you send in the care package, your child will no doubt be excited to get mail while at camp.
Separation is Hard. Stay Cool: One of the hardest things about heading off to summer camp is often the separation anxiety. This can be especially difficult for first-time campers. Many children are used to being with their mom or dad all day long, and going to camp will change that completely. I suggest giving your child something special to take with them; something they can keep in their pocket that reminds them of you. That way, when they feel sad, they can pull out their special item and think of you.
Parenting Expert and father of 7, Robert Nickell (aka Daddy Nickell) offers his “5 cents” worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of Daddy & Co., delivery room duds and daddy gifts and apparel for every stage of fatherhood, and the Daily Daddy Blog. He is also the creator and producer of “My Life as a Dad,” the groundbreaking new web series that showcases celebrity fathers offering their personal experiences and parenting tips.