Going to overnight camp is a wonderful gift for kids and teens. It’s an opportunity to make friends, have fun and develop an increased sense of independence. Some kids may board the bus and seem to never look back, where as other kids experience some hesitation in taking that step. Parents too may experience some stress associated with getting their kids packed and ready for camp, as well as for their time spent away from home. Below are some tips for kids and parents to help create a successful overnight camp experience. Happy camping!
Tips for Kids
- 1. Try something new – Camp provides many opportunities that are not available on a daily basis when at home. Try something that you haven’t done before. Sign up for horseback riding, water skiing or ceramics. You may unexpectedly find an activity that you enjoy or are good at. This is also a good opportunity to meet new kids that you may not have hung out with before.
- Include others – Just like at school, some kids will feel the need to create social “drama.” Sure, there will be some people in your cabin that aren’t going to be your best friend, but still treat them with kindness. Including others prevents negativity and drama that takes away from the true fun of overnight camp. No one wants to be on the excluding end, so treat others how you want to be treated.
- Create your support system – All kids experience some degree of homesickness throughout their overnight camp history. Homesickness can be very difficult and may feel lonely, if you do not have a close friend or counselor that you can share your feelings with. You may not want to share your feelings with everyone in your cabin, but it is important to confide in another camper or counselor. Likely they have experienced similar feelings or can share that other kids are feeling that way too. Friends and support systems are there to help us when we are feeling down. They may be able to offer a hug, help to distract you or cheer you up. Likely, you will feel a sense of relief knowing that you can talk with someone and that you are not alone with your feelings.
Tips for Parents
- Label clothes – As much as you’d like to imagine that cabins are neatly organized, clothing inevitably gets mixed amongst campers. Overnight camp is full of dress-up and themed nights, not to mention the sharing of tank tops, headbands and bandanas. Labeling clothing is an easy way to help your kiddo stay organized and provide you with peace of mind that he/she will come home with all (or most J) belongings.
- Validate feelings, but instill confidence– In the days and weeks leading up to departure to camp, he or she may be nervous, afraid, excited, or all of these at once. It is important that you keep your own emotions in check in order to validate his or her feelings. Make sure s/he knows that the feelings are normal and that lots of kids going off to camp have those same feelings. Remind them that the unknown is ok and that they will soon feel at-home at camp. Be sure to communicate a sense of confidence in your kid’s ability to be successful at camp, even though they may experience some uncomfortable feelings. Kids look to their parents in times of uncertainty and if you are confident, they are more likely to adopt the same perspective.
- Let go of the control – Remember that the take away from overnight camp is not the number of times per day teeth are brushed, how well clothes are organized or how many letters are written each day. Kids remember and feel fulfilled by the relationships they form, their newly found sense of independence, the frequency of laughter and a strong sense of belonging. Communicate some self-care and organizational suggestions, but allow your son/daughter the freedom to navigate the daily routines of overnight camp.