Whether it's a local day camp, a week-long sleep-away camp or a month-long trip abroad, sending your child to camp for the first time can be nerve-wracking for both of you. Here are a few ways to ease the transition and allow you and your child to enjoy the experience.
Include Your Kids in the Planning and Prep Work
There are many camps to choose from; narrow down the list based on your child's needs and your budget. If possible, let your child make the final decision on where to go and allow him or her to pick some of the activities and classes they will take at camp.
Work with your child to select necessities when packing for camp. Whether it's practice clothes and new shin guards or a toothbrush holder and face soap, including them in the planning and preparation stages will give them a feeling of control and help make the transition away from home easier.
Anticipate New Experiences
New experiences are an exciting and sometimes terrifying part of camp, but practicing a little before your kids go will make the adjustment easier. Find out what will be new to your kids and help them feel more comfortable with it. Practice a variety of drills with your kids in the backyard or the local fields. If the camp is nearby, spend some time in the area to familiarize them with the surroundings. And if your kids are going abroad, buy a language dictionary and practice simple phrases such as "please," "thank you" and asking for directions.
Sit down and talk with your kids about their feelings and concerns. Let them know that it's OK to be excited and worried at the same time. Talk about homesickness and arm them with stationery, a phone card and an address book so they can stay in touch with family and friends. Remember to also be positive and encouraging about the new things they will learn, the experiences they will have and the people they will meet.
Don't Forget to Have Fun!
Scary as it may be, the first time away at camp is also a fun and rewarding experience that will leave your kids begging to go back year after year. A journal makes a great parting gift so they can write down their camp adventures to share with loved ones when they return.