Tips to Prepare Your Child and Yourself for Sleepaway Camp

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For kids, going to camp for the first time conjures a mix of nervous anticipation, excitement and a flickering sense of independence. It’s essential to take the time to emotionally prepare the first-time camper, but what about Mom, Dad and the siblings who stay home? Before packing their kids off to camp, it’s not unusual for many parents to grapple with their own emotions and nerves. But, there are practical steps to help overcome these natural feelings.


While parents often worry that separation from their kids will be difficult, take comfort in knowing that this is a very common response. It is also helpful to keep in mind that separation is natural, necessary, and inevitable. What better place to have that first camp experience than in a caring and nurturing environment designed specifically for children? 


Focus On The Positives

The benefits of camp are amazing, and it is often reassuring for parents to focus on those positives. At camp, kids are immersed in experiential education that teaches valuable 21st century survival skills like leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal communication.


Prep for Homesickness

Some parents are concerned that the child left at home will experience separation and loneliness. One helpful way to deal with this is to talk about the upcoming separation. Before the eldest child leaves for camp, take a picture of your children together that each sibling can keep in their room or carry around. Remind your children about the communication they can have with each other through letters and postcards sent to and from camp.  


Follow Your Child’s Camp on Social Media

Many camps, including our sleepaway camp in California, post photos or videos to a website for families to view. Many others post information, photos, and videos to social media outlets like Facebook. Families should be sure to ask camp directors about these options. 


It’s the highlight of the day for many families at home to gather together in the evening and peruse photos of their camper enjoying a day of activities, new friends and adventures. The moment parents see their camper radiating confidence and joy, they will feel a burst of pride and gratitude that they gave their child this experience.


By sending a child to camp, families are giving a gift that lasts a lifetime. By taking steps to prepare for camp – mentally and emotionally – families not only keep from getting “kid-sick” for their camper, but they can stay positive about the upcoming camp experience. This positive preparation isn’t just good for the family back at home. It goes a very long way toward setting up first-time campers for a successful adjustment to life at camp. 


At the end of the summer, campers return home full of excitement and with stories about new friends and adventures at camp. It isn’t uncommon for parents to reconsider their own transformed anxieties, and to realize that in many ways, they grew almost as much from the experience as their camper did.


Learn more about Catalina Island Camps summer program to find the perfect fit for your children! This online resource for families includes expert advice, information on health and safety, and ACA’s searchable database of over 2,400 ACA-Accredited® camps, such as Catalina Island Camp!