Preparing Kids for Summer Camp
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Questions to ask about every camp
When deciding on a summer camp for your child, according to Dina Morrissey at Hasbro Children's Hospital, ask the following questions:
1. Is the camp ACA accredited?
2. Does the camp have a written health/safety policy? Can you obtain a written copy of their policy?
3. Does the camp have a nurse on site? Is the nurse available 24/7?
4. Are there medical facilities available close to the camp?
5. What type of safety training is required of the staff and councilors?
6. If the camp has a lake or a pool you will want to ask who supervises children while they are swimming or boating. What type of training have these individuals received?
Pre-camp health checklist
Before your child leaves for camp, says Morrissey, make sure you do the following:
1. Your child should have a pre-camp physical. Make sure your child is up to date on all vaccinations.
2. Camp staff should have a copy of your child’s health history including their immunization dates, history of any medical problems and a complete list of the child’s medications.
3. Be sure to send plenty of sunscreen and bug repellant with your child to camp. Discuss the importance of using both of these items with your child.
4. Send a water bottle/canteen with your child and discuss with them the importance of staying hydrated.
How to handle homesickness
Homesickness is a common concern for many parents and children when considering summer camp, says C. Sloan Alday of Bradley Hospital. With some thoughtful planning, however, homesickness should not be a significant problem for most children. Families can take steps before and during camp to minimize the negative impact of homesickness.
1. When first considering camp for a child, parents should determine if their child is ready. Younger children, children who are shy, or children who have never spent the night away from home may not be ready for camp. If a child clearly states no interest in attending camp, s/he is not ready. A child’s readiness for camp cannot be judged by the age a sibling or peer was ready for camp. The average child is ready around the age of 9 or 10. Some younger children are ready, particularly if they have an older sibling, friend, or relative at camp with them.
2. After determining that a child is ready and willing to attend camp, the camp experience can be maximized by involving children in every aspect of getting ready for camp. Children should be involved in the decision making from the start. They should be part of the decision to go to camp, which camp and for how long. To minimize homesickness, the camp should be one that fits with your child’s interests and abilities. Next, the camp experience she be recorded on a calendar so that children can see visually how long until they leave and how long they will be gone. Children should also be involved in all parts of preparation for camp, purchasing supplies, labeling clothing and toiletries, packing the trunk. Be sure to follow all camp instructions on what and how to pack.
3. An important part of preparing for camp is allowing your child some practice time away from home. Children who have had some experience being away from home are less likely to be homesick. Practice with visits to grandparents, friends, etc for a weekend or longer. Try to follow camp rules while your child is practicing being away. If there are no phone calls or e-mails at camp, then don’t use them while your child is away.
4. Additionally, speak to your child about homesickness and how to cope with it. Explain that homesickness is normal and everyone feels that way sometimes. Tell them you understand it is hard to feel homesick, but that you are confident that they can work through this. Then talk to them about coping strategies: having a family picture and/or special object to carry such as a stuffed animal, coin or friendship bracelet. Practice writing letters home so that they know how to do that. Talk to them about staying busy and finding fun things to do to keep their minds off of it. Suggest reframing time, remembering that it’s only a few days that they will be away and how little of the year that is.
5. Encourage you children to talk to an adult or camp counselor if they are feeling homesick in order to get support. Have children try out these strategies during their practice time away from home so that they know which ones work for them. Try to avoid making the promise that you will come get them if it doesn’t work out. This unintentionally gives the message that you do not have confidence in their abilities to cope. Coping with homesickness is an important skill for success not only for camp but later when they go away to college or move away for jobs.
6. Parents may wish to mail a letter to their child ahead of time so that it is waiting when at camp. When the first day of camp arrives, make sure you arrive for drop-off according to camp guidelines. Help your child get settled and make you help them meet their counselor and other important adults. Parents should stay cheerful and positive, avoiding anxiety provoking statements, such as “How will I survive without you?” or, “I sure hope you can do this.” It’s helpful to speak about how much fun they will have and how quickly the time will go by.
Homesick crisis 911
What do you do if your child calls you in tears, asking to come home? First offer empathy. Tell them you understand it’s hard to feel homesick. Then, normalize the experience. Explain that lots of people feel homesick and it means that there’s something about home that they love, which is a wonderful thing. Next offer encouragement. Tell them you know that they will feel better and have a great time. Finally, remind them of the coping skills you have discussed, such as using pictures and reminders of home, writing letters, staying busy, talking to others, and remembering that the time will go by quickly. Try to instill a sense of confidence and control. Assure them that they are in control of how they are feeling and they can make it better. Homesickness will pass, just like any other kinds of sickness, like having a cold. After hanging up, get in touch with camp staff if you’re able, and let them know your child is having trouble. Ask camp staff to provide some extra TLC, make sure your child stays involved, and facilitate some friendships.
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