Sending your shy, sweet child to summer camp can be a scary thought. We talk to Christine Fonseca, author of "Quiet Kids: Help Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World," about her best tips for sending an introverted kid to camp. And good news: it actually can be a rewarding experience for your child.
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How do you know if your child is an introvert?
A lot of it has to do with looking at the behavior when they’re around other kids, or when they become tired. Introverted children tend to be more reserved, when they are interacting with others. They're not the first kid on the playground to run over to other kids. They may watch for a while before they venture out to play with others. When it’s the end of a school day, for example, they are much more likely to be the one to come home not wanting to talk about their day and wanting to disappear into their room. An extroverted wants to tell you all about their day. That’s one of the big things to look for. It really has to do how we use energy and how we renew our energy. At the end of the day an introverted person renews their energy through solitude, where extroverts renews their energy through social connection.
What are the most importing things to think about when you send an introvert child to camp?
First, make sure you’re sending them to a camp they’re actually interested in going to. They’re going to be super nervous as it is and that’s going to be made even worse if it’s not a camp that has anything to do with what they’re interested in. If it’s possible to send your child to a camp that a friend also goes to that would be great because then he or she will have at least have one other person they can connect to. If that’s not possible then maybe consider a day camp instead of an overnight camp so your child has an opportunity to have some downtime at night. Also, some camps have Facebook pages where kids can get to know each other before camp. That’s a great option. Many introverts are actually very social online. It’s easier for them to be social through the screen than it is in person. So that might be a way to help prepare them. Sometimes a child might have a sibling that’s more extroverted – so another thing parents can to is to send the siblings to the same camp. That will make the introverted child more comfortable.
If parents are sending their child to an overnight camp, what can they do to make it easier?
Sometimes there are ways to digitally connect with your kids. You could also let him or her bring a personal thing from home, which can help with homesickness. Things like a book or a journal can be good to pack for them as well, if that’s how the introverted is gaining their downtime.
How does camp help introverts?
It’s an opportunity to develop their social skills and for them to become less afraid of trying something new so they can be a little more adventurous. You are setting something good up for them later in life for when they reach college age. You’re starting to slay that framework which makes it feel safer to go away for college.
What advice can parents give to their children about making friends at camp?
The child should be willing to feel uncomfortable and say that first hi instead of waiting for the other kid to come to them. They should be willing to put themselves out there. And then remember that you’re not going to like everybody and everybody is not going to like you, and that’s OK! And lastly just to feel comfortable being who they are. Sometimes kids try to hard and that usually doesn’t work.