So you’re about to send your precious bundle of joy off to summer camp. Congratulations! Maybe it’s day camp; maybe he or she is journeying to sleep-away camp for the first time (and you’re getting a break). In the best circumstances, camps are places to build self-esteem and resilience…but it helps to be prepared. We asked Camp Grossman assistant vice president Stuart Silverman for the inside dirt on what to do and what to avoid when preparing to send your child off into the wild.
Label absolutely everything
“Kids lose things,” says Silverman. “You could fill a Marshall’s twice over with the things we find. Especially towels.”
Do not send your child to camp with expensive items. See above.
Pack extra everything
Extra shirts, towels, shorts. Things get dirty, wet, lost, you name it.
Check the weather
“Too often, we see kids come in without rain gear, or without a sweatshirt. Pack appropriate clothing in their backpack,” Silverman says.
Know the terrain
Kids probably will be outside a lot, running around. So leave the flip-flops at home and wear sneakers instead.
Don’t be afraid to reach out with suggestions or ideas
“People tend to wait to express concerns. But camps want to please, and we want it to be a successful summer. But we can’t do that unless you give us feedback,” he says.
Give your counselors or unit head intel on your kid
Let them know if your child, say, is afraid of thunderstorms or has anxiety about swimming, so they can prepare for how to handle it. Chances are, your child might be too shy to speak up.
Print out the camp schedule and place it someplace visible
That way, your child will know what he or she has planned for the day, and so do you. No surprises when it’s arts-and-crafts day instead of wood shop. “This opens up a dialogue and cuts down on anxiety,” Silverman says.
Don’t force your kid to do overnight camp if she or he isn’t ready
“Kids develop and grow at different stages,” Silverman says. “It’s not a crime against humanity not to go to overnight camp! Parents see it as a rite of passage. Don’t force. It will have the opposite effect.” In general, Silverman says fifth grade is the ideal time to explore the option. And remember: Your child might be nervous due to loss of control. He or she is stranded someplace, and there’s absolutely nothing he or she can do about it. If this is true for your child, but he or she still wants to go, let the camp know.
Tone down your own anxiety
“The more anxious the parent, the more anxious the kid,” says Silverman. “Remember: It’s hard to mess up camp!”