Sleep away camp is around the corner! Parents and children are in the thick of what I call CAMP MANIA!! Every children’s store you walk into today in NYC, Long Island, Westchester, and New Jersey, has THE CAMP BUZZ going on ! Big neon signs, clothing, color war face paint, and fun accessories all pertaining to sleep away camp decorate every store in town. Parents and children are being inundated with the latest and greatest camp paraphernalia available. As you walk into each store, employees are busy asking kids where they are going to camp? Is this your 1st summer going away to camp? For some kids this BUZZ is just a bit too overwhelming!
For kids that have anxiety about going back to camp, or kids that are first time campers, this time of year can be difficult for them. Anxiety is building and they need to work on it NOW so by the time camp comes they are ready to enjoy a successful summer away! And remember…your child may SAY that she/he is fine and not feeling any pre-camp nerves, but sometimes that can be a front. Keep an eye open for less noticeable signs such as changes in sleep patterns (trouble falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep), difficulty separating from you, and/or the often-heard “What happens if…” questions.
Here are some helpful tips to help kids relax and have a positive camp experience:
Talk about camp! Not talking about it can lead to underlying building anxiety. Kids are aware that camp is coming, so don’t push it away because you are nervous for them to go. If your child is showing anxiety or emotion now, deal with it! You have plenty of time to give him or her coping skills and strategies they need to be successful.
Countdowns to camp are great, but remember as it gets closer they don’t need to be reminded by having that countdown clock or calendar next to their bed before they go to sleep every night. You don’t want them feeling anxious about falling asleep and then associate that with camp.
Ask your child if he or she has any questions or concerns about camp NOW…waiting until a week before isn’t going to make them feel relaxed and prepared. Camp directors are more than happy to answer these questions so their campers can have a positive transition into camp.
If you have any concerns about your child, be honest with your director by having a conversation in advance so you all are on the same page. You are doing the camp a favor by preparing them with information about your child. A good camp director will appreciate your honesty. Full discloser is imperative!
Go with your child go pick out some accessories and decorations to bring to camp. Fun decorations for the wall are great way to brighten up the bunk! Boys love Fatheads, girls love posters- this will help them envision their bunk before they even get there.
Most children will experience homesickness at some point in camp. Even if its just for a day, make sure you tell them this is a normal and will go away. Don’t make them feel embarrassed or ashamed for feeling this way. Telling them that you too felt this when you were a child and how after a few days that feeling went away can be very helpful for your child to hear. One camp director has a favorite line that she shares with campers: “It’s okay to miss home AND have fun at camp at the same time!”
If your child is currently on medication for Anxiety,ADHD,OCD, etc. don’t make any changes right before camp. Make sure you have a plan in place with your child’s doctor at least 2 months in advance so your child does not experience any changes.
Send your child with a comfort from home. Even boys need a comfort that will help them fall asleep easier. A blanket, special pillow, something that will help them fall asleep with ease.
If you child doesn’t know anybody going to camp with him or her, call the camp directors and ask if they can set you up with someone that may live close to you or somebody that would be a good match for your child. They don’t need to be best friends, but having a familiar face at the bus stop can be very helpful!
If you see your child is starting to feel very anxious it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Having your child see a therapist for a few sessions can make a tremendous difference. Learning relaxation techniques can be very helpful to children who are anxious.
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