Summer camp strategies: How to help kids transition to camp


• Talk to them about it; describe activities they will be doing, describe your own experiences or other’s experience about camp.

• Involve kids in choosing the camp. First, parents must decide what type (day camp vs. overnight, co-ed or same gender, traditional recreational camp or specialty camp) then discuss their top choices with their child to get their opinion.

• Attend open houses, meet the staff, visit the campsite, check out the Web site.

• Talk to other families who are sending their kids to the same camp. Arrange a play date with the kids to foster a positive relationship.

Healing homesickness

• Involve the children in the decision on camping. If kids feel like partners in this decision, they also perceive more control of the process. If they feel forced to go to camp, they might feel helpless, which increases homesickness.

• Normalize your child’s feelings, including fear, nervousness, homesickness. These are normal feelings when going away from loved ones.

• Parents should practice brief separation periods prior to camp. Arrange a weekend overnight without contact with parents (no phone calls).

• Provide addressed, stamped envelopes so kids can mail letters.

• Express optimism and confidence in their child’s ability to manage separation and to have fun at camp. Avoid expressing anxiety about the separation.

• Avoid promising kids to pick them up if camp doesn’t work out.

Coping concepts for kids

• Tell kids to do something fun with friends when feeling homesick.

• Do something to feel closer to home like look at a family picture, write a letter or journal entry.

• Talk to someone at camp who can listen and help.

• Think of the fun activities at camp. Distract yourself from thoughts of missing home.

• Use a calendar to mark off the days to visualize the duration and realize the separation is not forever.

Source: Francesca Skowronski, visiting assistant professor, Institute for Juvenile Research Department of Psychiatry, The University of Illinois at Chicago

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