Summer camp can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for kids, filled with unique adventures and the chance to make friends forever. It’s natural, however, for some children to get anxious as they enter this completely different environment. Help prevent and calm any anxiety with the following tips that’ll make your child’s summer camp experience the best it can be:
Involve Children in Planning and Preparation
If you haven’t yet picked out the camp to send your children to, invite them to participate in the decision. You’ll empower them when you give them the chance to choose the camp that aligns most with their interests which works to instill more confidence in them before they go. Additionally, build positive anticipation leading up to camp by bringing them along for any shopping for items they’ll need. They’ll try on gear and be able to envision themselves at camp, further easing them into an environment that might be completely out of their usual comfort zone.
Frame Conversations Strategically
Be aware of how you are facilitating conversation about camp with your child. If he or she is expressing anxiety, try to shift the focus away from the actual topic of being nervous. For instance, don’t lead a conversation by saying, “are you nervous about making friends?”—instead, shift the focus to the excitement of making friends and ask, “how excited are you to make new friends?” At the same time, try not to trivialize any unsure feelings by avoiding statements like, “everyone loves camp!” You can steer camp talk in a positive direction and alleviate unnecessary mental stress.
Leading up the camp, it never hurts to practice camping. Pitch a tent in the backyard to get the kids used to sleeping in the outdoors or coordinate a sleepover away from home, at perhaps Grandma’s, so they can stay somewhere other than their own bed. The more they learn to adjust to a place outside their own house, the easier adjustment it will be when they get to camp.
Talk to Camp Counselors
It’s important to openly communicate with camp counselors about your child. Inform them of any habits or anxiety issues that might arise so they are aware and can handle the situation properly, knowing the circumstances. This will help avoid any unnecessary surprises and ensure a better reaction to action. Additionally, encourage your kids to talk to their camp counselors if they ever need help. Let them know that these are the people they can trust who are looking out for their best interests.
Maintain a Connection
As the days go by, your kids may get homesick while away. Ensure them that they are always one phone call away from hearing your voice. Provide a means for communication to maintain this connection. If camp allows for it, give them a smartphone or tablet that lets them access a sense of familiarity when needed. Whether it’s scrolling through pictures of the family or watching videos, calling or emailing home, this will ease a bit of the homesickness. Phones or tablets run by mobile processors like the Snapdragon 820 enables better network connection in many areas that don’t normally receive great service—like say, the woods. Plus, the processor supports superior graphics so your kids can take and send the pictures of all their adventures to keep you in the loop.
Outlining all the activities that will happen, including daily schedules, routines and events, will help prepare your child mentally. Do research together so your kids can get an idea of what lies ahead. You can talk about their goals and also manage their expectations. Try to set realistic expectations with them in order to avoid any disappointment that might fuel anxiety. To add, you can teach them a few ways to deal with specific scenarios. For example, if another camper upsets them, let them know it’s okay to feel sad or angry but to try taking a deep breath before starting unnecessary confrontation or playing active sport to channel negative energy.
There are many ways to prepare anxious children for summer camp. By implementing a few or all of the aforementioned tips, they’ll be able to make a smooth transition into the new environment and enjoy their experience fully and free of anxiety.