Sending your child on his or her first overnight camp experience can be an emotional roller-coaster. While deep down you know your child will have the time of his or her life, anxiety can be felt on both sides. For your child, this could be the first time away from the comforts of Mom and Dad. For the parent, this could be your first lesson in letting go. Still, a little preparation — both physically and emotionally — can go a long way in ensuring your child has a positive experience.
Include your child in the process months before camp even starts. Review the camp online together and familiarize yourselves with images and content so your child knows what to expect. This can help alleviate any anxiety your child may be feeling about being in a new place. Once the registration is complete, don’t close the website down and forget about it. Keep talking about the camp and all the fun activities he or she will be experiencing while at summer camp! This will only get your child more excited and emotionally prepared for what’s to come!
If your child has not experienced a sleepover at a friend’s or relative’s house, a few practice runs can give them the confidence they need to attend an overnight summer camp. Start with family and set up a Saturday night sleepover at Grandma’s or at Auntie’s and gradually work your way up to a sleepover at their bestie’s. You can start by hosting at your house and then take turns. The more your child experiences nights away from home, the better prepared they’ll be for overnight summer camp.
If your child has a friend or acquaintance going to the same camp, you can also request to have them as cabin mates at Muskoka Woods. The camp guarantees one cabin mate request as long as the request has been reciprocated, both guests are registered in the same week and same age group (based on age as of December 31st), and requests are made at least two weeks prior to arrival. Having a friendly face in the same cabin can bring comfort to your child who may be experiencing their first time away from home.
While years ago, parents would write letters and mail them to their children at camp, now parents can send one-way emails to their children at Muskoka Woods! Staff print out the emails and distribute them to your child daily, giving them a dose of familiarity and home. Letting your child know that you will still be in contact with them via these emails during their stay at camp will be something they can look forward to.
When it comes to physically getting ready for camp, take your child shopping with you for all their summer camp gear. This way, they can pick out their favourite items and get excited for the days to come! Moreover, when it comes time to pack, let them pack their own bag or at least help and see you doing it. This way, they will know where everything is in their suitcase and it can also reassure them that they will have everything they will need on-hand if they see it actually being packed in their bag.
In addition, be sure to toss in a familiar stuffy or picture from home that they can have with them at camp. Those first few nights can bring on some serious homesickness and having something from home to squeeze or look at can bring comfort to your child during those first few nights away.
These few simple steps can prepare your child both emotionally and physically to embark on their new adventure at summer camp confidently and enthusiastically while giving you peace of mind that your child will be just fine.
Rachel is the publisher of inBetween magazine geared towards parents of teens and young adults. Mom to her 12-year-old son, her more than 20 years of experience in journalism have been spent researching and writing about issues closest to families. Rachel, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, she now lives with her husband and their son in Toronto.