Summer Camps

And They’re Off!

Helping your little first-timer adjust to sleep-away camp

By John Lomax March 3, 2014 Published in the March 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Camp Mystic. Courtesy of Camp Mystic.

Even the hardiest, most independent camper will experience homesickness at some point, especially on his first trip. As a parent your goal is to minimize if not eliminate it, and that effort should begin months before you pack your child off. Here are some tips based on collective camping wisdom:

  • Involve your child in the selection process. This is important. Together, look over the websites of the camps you are considering, put together a shortlist of options you can tour in person, and give your child a say on which camp she ultimately attends. 
  • In the weeks leading up to drop-off day, encourage your camper to share thoughts and fears. Acknowledge them and reassure your child, but go easy on the we’re-sure-gonna-miss-you speak. Keep her focused on camp, not the family pining for her. 
  • Get your child excited. Look at a typical day’s schedule on the camp website, review what she can and can’t bring with her, and get her involved in the bag-packing process. 
  • Mail a letter to camp ahead of your child’s arrival so it is waiting there when she arrives. The tone (of this and all other letters) should focus on the friends she’s making and her new experiences, and how you can’t wait to hear all about it. Again, don’t stress how much you miss her. 
  • Send care packages in a timely manner. There is no worse feeling than being the odd kid out at mail call.
  • Give your child the tools to succeed. If she hasn’t yet learned proper showering habits, brush up on them, and if she’s unaccustomed to sleeping in unfamiliar beds or rustic settings, practice by sending her to a relative’s place for a sleepover, or have a backyard campout.
  • Consider having one of your child’s friends go with her, and arrange for the two to be bunkmates.
  • If you had a great time at camp as a kid, share those experiences.
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