Sending kids to camp needn’t be packed with worry. Here are tips to keep anxiety off the to-do list as you prepare to see the kids off for the first, or 10th, time.
Calgary registered psychologist Dr. Brian Zelt suggests sleepovers prior to a trip to camp.
“I wouldn’t use the summer camp as the first opportunity to stay away, and if they have a chance to stay at a grandparent’s or friend’s place first, that would be a better situation,” said Zelt.
Though most camps have a minimum age, age is not always the best ruler of readiness.
“I worked in summer camps myself, and sometimes even the older kids still struggle with being away,” said Zelt.
“Transitional objects” such as a pillow, stuffed animal or prized PJs can help kids bring a piece of home along, said Zelt, adding he’s also heard of parents planting notes in a child’s belongings or leaving letters with camp staff for delivery over the week.
One thing to avoid is gushy sentiments of how you will miss the child, because more sensitive kids can worry about whether parents are having a good time, he said.
And parents experiencing anxiety of their own can combat this with a little planning.
“I have seen that quite often, when parents’ whole identity is tied up in the children … but now they have this time to fill. I would encourage them to plan what the week will look like beforehand, and maybe take the time to spend time with a spouse, friends, or perhaps it’s an opportunity to spend time with a younger child.”
Parents should also avoid steps like calling counsellors or the camp director.
A little anxiety in kids is normal, but the camp is bound to let parents know it gets more severe and a child show signs of distress such as prolonged crying or physical symptoms.
Once you are prepared mentally, it’s on to packing.
To make this task a no-brainer, labelmakers such as Mabels Labels and Stuck On You sell personable iron-in tags for around $20 for packs of 40 or 50. All are available online, and one manufacturer, Oliver’s Labels, even makes sticky labels for inside shoes so, with any luck, kids come home toting the same items they left with and nothing extra or missing.