The anticipation of camp is an important part of the experience, both for campers and parents.  Whether it’s your child’s first summer going away to camp or the eighth, the weeks leading up to that first day are filled with excitement and nervousness.

Good preparation helps your camper get the most from the camp experience.  Here are a few suggestions for your family. 

Talk about camp as a family.  It’s your daughter/son who is going to be at camp, but the whole family is part of the experience.  Everyone is excited and everyone is affected by the camper being away from home.  So everyone should have a chance to talk about all the cool stuff that happens at camp and to express how they feel about the experience.  With everyone involved, your camper knows that s/he has a strong support system.

If you make “camp talk” part of your general family conversations, then you’ll probably find that your camper will start to ask some questions about things that can be hard to bring up.  Like homesickness, or making friends or any of those little “what if” questions that can be concerning until they are talked about openly.

Talk about the camp staff.  Let your camper know that the staff are there for the campers.  This means that we will always be with our campers, that we love doing activities with them and that we never mind answering a question or helping out with a problem.  The staff is fun, creative, energetic and is dedicated to keeping everyone safe.

Please let your camper know that speaking up is okay.  In fact, we love it when campers tell us what’s on their minds, whatever that may be.  We don’t mind suggestions for doing things differently and we are expert at dealing smoothly with problems that may come up.

Talk about the variety of activities we have at camp and encourage your camper to try new things along with their favorites.  Help them realize that camp is an ideal place to do something for the very first time.  Counselors will teach them and everyone will be supportive and encouraging.

It’s very important to talk about treating people kindly.  I know this sounds too obvious to mention.  But in a community of people with many different backgrounds and perspectives, and with us living so closely together, this can be easier said than done.  Talk to your camper about meeting new people and about being nice to everyone.  And please mention reaching out the hand of friendship to those who may feel a little awkward socially.  We include everyone at camp and we teach our campers how to enjoy the friendship of everyone.

Help build the excitement.  Talk about fun, because that’s the central theme of camp: having fun with others.  Help your camper anticipate all the new, fun, offbeat, crazy, energetic and surprising things that will happen at camp. 

If your child is a returning camper, it’s just as important to talk about the coming summer.  It’s a good idea to talk about what new things they want to learn, the new activities they want to try and their role as a returner.  Making extra sure to be friends with the new campers is a nice thing to do and it helps continue our camp’s tradition of accepting everyone for who they are.

We are lucky — our campers and our staff — to have the opportunity to go to camp.  We have unbelievable amounts of fun, we make lots of friends, we become more independent and we build skills that last a lifetime.

Thank you, parents, for making this possible and for taking the time to prepare your camper for the summer of his/her life.

Written by Tom Riddleberger, Owner/Director of Campus Kids-NJ, the weekday sleep-away camp.