What Camp Counselors Wish Parents Knew About Overnight Camp

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Many camp parents have experienced it, that “hold on a sec” moment of creeping self-doubt when you suddenly catch yourself wondering what your kid’s camp counselors really think of you. Your last-minute questions, your helicopter parenting style or the items missing from the suitcase/duffle bag/steamer trunk you sent with your camper. 


According to Beth Luberecki’s 2018 Washington Post article, there are a few simple things that parents could do to make the whole summer camp experience run a bit smoother – and boost their own camp parent competence in the process.


Plan Ahead


According to a poll of recent and current camp counselors, one of the most important things parents can do is “be properly prepared.” Easy examples include not waiting until the day before camp starts to turn in that paperwork that was requested weeks – or even months – ago. 


Another simple strategy: don’t wait until the first morning of camp to ask all those questions you’ve been saving up. Parents who ask questions before that first morning are showing their camper that they’re fully prepared and less stressed – and that definitely makes for easier camper transitions. Our overnight summer camp in Southern California provides answers for frequently asked questions about our programs!




A perennial pet peeve of legions of camp counselors is unlabeled belongings.  No one likes digging through the mountains of lost and found items – not counselors, not campers, not parents. 


Insider tip: want an easy way to be a counselor’s new best friend? Label everything – and not just obvious things like bags, sweatshirts and towels. Slap labels on swim goggles, books, flashlights and anything else that might easily get left behind or confused with another camper’s stuff.  One camp counselor puts it plainly: “If you name it, you can claim it. We can get it back to you if it has a name or initials on it.” 


Encourage Your Child To Make New Friends


Another important bit of insight from camp counselors is about making new friends.  If your camper doesn’t know other kids at their overnight camp, spend a little time at home practicing ways they can introduce themselves and get to know other campers. Meeting new kids builds confidence and self-esteem, and can be one of the best parts of camp!


In fact, many camp counselors advise parents to go out on a limb and actually select an overnight summer camp where they don’t know anyone. Oftentimes parents need a little reassurance on the friend-making topic, so why not speak directly with camp staff, before that first day arrives? Counselors and other staff are experts at this stuff, and they can help set parents’ nerves at ease if given the chance to share their knowledge and experience.


Review Your Camper’s Daily Schedule


Familiarize your camper with daily schedules and routines before their overnight summer camp starts. When kids know what to expect at camp, they’ll adjust much more quickly.  If you happen to know staff or counselors’ names ahead of time, let your kids get familiar with them in advance. 


Talk to your camper about what to do if they aren’t feeling well or need help with something once at overnight camp.  Counselors are there to help – but it’s a lot harder to fix something unless they know about it.


Stay Calm, Cool and Collected

Just about the most important thing a new camp parent can do is to stay calm, even if you are scared about sending your child to camp for the first time. Parents who show fear and apprehension about camp are setting an example for their campers, and they will see that reflected in their kids.  At the same time, parents who project calm and confidence about camp will see that easy confidence in their children as well. 


Says one long time camp counselor, “The first morning of camp, I always tell parents that the No. 1 thing I want them to do is smile. If you’re confident that your kids are going to have a great day and you come off that way, they will feel that.”


Meet our team of amazing camp counselors and 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!