New to camp? Advice on preparing your child for a week away

Sending a child away from home for the first time can be stressful for both the parent and the child. Follow these tips to ensure your child is a happy camper this summer.

1. Prepare your child ahead of time

Talk with your child about their upcoming experience before he leaves. Discuss their concerns. Highlight his strengths, and explain that he’ll be able to build on these skills and develop new ones at camp. Talk about problems he may have had at school and how he can better handle them at camp.

2. Pack smart

Most camps will provide a packing list of items your child will need. Work off that list, but also involve your child in the packing process. Allow her to bring a stuffed animal or blanket she may be attached to.

3. Send in paperwork early

Most good camps will ask you to fill out forms to let them know how your child reacts to stressful situations, how she interacts with others, or how they can best deal with homesickness once your child arrives. Be sure to send these and all medical forms in early to give counselors time to study them.

4. Keep goodbyes brief

When you drop your child off, check out his cabin and help him settle in. Then put on a brave face, tell him he’ll have a great time, and leave. Lingering too long will make the goodbye even harder.

5. Keep all communication positive

Sending a daily letter or email to tell your child about what’s going on at home will only remind her of what she’s missing. Likewise, saying how much you, her siblings, and the dog misses her will make her sad. So limit communication to a few times per week. When you do write, be positive and focus on her experience. Tell her you hope she’s having fun and that you can’t wait to see pictures. It would also help to slip a letter into her suitcase or to mail one ahead of time so it’s waiting for her when she gets there.

6. Follow the rules

Many camps have policies about whether family members can call and what can be sent in a care package. Don’t be the annoying parent who breaks the rules.

7. Don’t give your child an easy way out

It’s tempting to tell your child you will pick him up if he’s not having fun after a day or two. But doing so will make him less likely to stick around, even if he is having a great time. Short bursts of homesickness are common, and camp counselors know how to handle them. They will contact you if they feel your child really needs to come home.

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