The Countdown to Camp Begins… Preparing Emotionally For the Summer
As most of us look outside our windows and wish for the sunshine and warm weather, it is hard to imagine that in less than four months we will actually be in Mukwonago basking in the sun and enjoying all the activities camp has to offer. While there is still a lot of time left for packing, filling out forms, getting a physical, etc, it is never to early to start the emotional preparation for going away to camp. As we move towards spring and the end of another academic year, thoughts about summer start to solidify and campers and parents (new and returning) are starting to experience a range of emotions. Hopefully the predominant feelings are those of anticipation and excitement, but it’s also natural to be apprehensive and nervous. While it may be challenging to deal with these often conflicting emotions, we are here as a resource and hope to provide you with some tips for how to deal with these emotions and set your child up for a successful summer.
Whether your child is a new camper or a returning camper, here is a list of some things to do with your camper in the next few months to get them more comfortable with going away from home and addressing some of the anxious feelings:
- Spend time on www.bebercamp.com and www.youtube.com/bebercamp and go through photos and videos to get a feeling for activities, facilities, songs, etc.
- If there is a Beber spring picnic in your area, ATTEND!! This is a great way to meet some of the directors, get your questions answered and meet other parents and campers.
- Spend time talking to your child about what camp will be like and listen to any fears or concerns. Remind them that feelings of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety are completely normal. A lot of children feel as though they have to choose being happy or being homesick. Reassure your child that it is ok and totally normal to be happy AND miss home. These two emotions do not need to exist separately. It is unrealistic to assume that camp is a place where we won’t ever struggle or deal with difficult situations. There will be an article in next month’s bulletin about how Beber handles homesickness and ways you can help as a parent.
- Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest worries for children attending camp, so time spent at home “practicing” a typical day at camp may provide some reassurance and self-confidence. For example, have your child practice some of their routines without your assistance: getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, reading in bed, picking out clothes in the morning, putting dirty laundry in a hamper.
- If your child has not slept away from home before, the best thing you can do for them is to arrange sleepovers between now and the beginning of camp. Have them get used to sleeping under a different roof – at a friend’s house, grandparent’s house, etc. These experiences will stimulate feelings of independence and give your child confidence that they can cope with longer separations from home.
- Involve your child in decisions regarding camp. Have them help create a packing list or have them pick out their new camp shirt or luggage they want to pack in.
- Talk about your communication plan with your child. Remind them that they will not have access to phones but that they will be able to write letters, emails and faxes and that you will be sending them packages, letters and emails. Help them create an address book with everyone’s contact information so that they can keep in touch with family and friends. Sending pre-addressed, stamped envelopes and pre-written fax and email cover sheets is a great way to ensure that letters get sent!
- Help your child create a little photo album of some of their favorite photos to bring with them. They will be able to show their friends and counselors and tell them all about where they are from!
- Younger brothers and sisters may become anxious about their sibling being away from home. Make sure your younger children understand how they will be able to communicate with their sibling while they are away. Show them photos of camp as well so that they can visualize where their sibling will be.
- Be realistic. Like the rest of life, camp will have high and low moments and your child may have some down moments. Your child should not feel pressured to feel a certain way at camp (ie. happy all day every day) and remind them that their main goal should be to have fun. Remind them that there will always be a counselor to talk to if they do ever feel sad.
- Please communicate any issues with camp staff prior to the start of the summer. If your child has a history of bedwetting, sleepwalking, night terrors, etc, it is extremely important that we know about this and can make an appropriate plan. Your child may be extremely anxious that nobody at camp will know how to handle these issues and if we have a plan, we can communicate that plan with your camper and make sure they know what will happen and how we will handle things without parents’ presence.
- Avoid the “get out clause”: If your child asks a lot of questions about what will happen if they are really homesick, one good response is “there will probably be times when you miss us or something else from home, but that’s normal and the best way to deal with it is to do something fun and stay busy”. AVOID making promises or statements that imply that you will pick them up if they are sad or want to come home. These statements set your child up for failure and send a message that the only solution to a difficult and normal feeling is to be rescued by mom or dad. It undermines your confidence in your child’s ability to cope with adversity.
- Be positive! Let them know how proud you are that they are setting out on this adventure and how you share in their excitement.
- As you become anxious, try not to transmit that feeling to your child. Don’t emphasize the fact that you will miss them while they are away. This may seem harsh, but the message here is avoiding the emphasis on that feeling. Support words like “we will miss you so much” with “but we will be so proud and happy that you will be having so much fun and making new friends and learning new skills”. Kids often internalize their parents’ anxiety and if your child is worried that you will be sad when they are gone, they may not be able to fully enjoy their experience.
As always, we are here to discuss your concerns about the summer and help you and your child prepare for the summer. Please do not hesitate to call or email us with any questions.