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Why Your Child Can Thrive at Sleepaway Camp

Why Your Child Can Thrive at Sleepaway Camp
As the warm summer breeze sets in, many parents find themselves preparing for the exciting yet nerve-wracking experience of sending their child off to sleepaway summer camp. This milestone is one where memories are made, lifelong friendships are forged, and independence blossoms. But as a parent, it can also stir up a mix of emotions, from pride to apprehension. How does one support their child in this new adventure without letting worries overshadow the joy? Here are some heartwarming suggestions to reassure and prepare you for this important step.

For starters, creating a positive dialogue about the upcoming camp experience can work wonders. Virginia, a mother of three, found solace in turning conversations into adventures themselves. "We talked about the fun activities they'd be doing, the new friends they’d make, and even the silly campfire songs," she recalls. Instilling enthusiasm rather than fear sets the tone, making it easier for your child to feel confident and excited.

Next, preparation is key. Ensure that your child has everything they need for a comfortable stay—from a well-packed bag to easy-to-read labels on clothes. Involving your child in the packing process can also help alleviate presences of uncertainty. Lisa, another mom, suggests, "Let your child help out; it gives them a sense of control and familiarity. We made an adventure out of packing!"

Communicating consistently but not excessively is important once your child has boarded the bus for camp. Schedule regular but brief check-ins, maybe through letters or occasional calls depending on the camp's policies. These serve as gentle reminders that they’re not alone and that you’re cheering them on from afar. But as Brian, a father of two, wisely notes, "Avoid the temptation to over-communicate or hover, which can inadvertently foster homesickness."

Don’t forget to encourage resilience and problem-solving. Allowing your child to face challenges head-on, whether it’s a disagreement with a bunkmate or tackling a new skill, helps build indispensable life skills. When Emma's son called her from camp feeling down, she listened, offered comforting words, but also encouraged him to work through it with the resources available there. “It was incredible to see how much he grew from those experiences,” Emma shares.

Lastly, keep the support flowing upon their return. Welcome them back with open arms and an attentive ear. Allow them to share their stories, triumphs, and even the not-so-great moments. It deepens your bond and shows them that no matter the distance, your support is unwavering.

As the days count down to that camp departure, remember, it’s as much your adventure as it is theirs. Through enthusiasm, preparation, balanced communication, and fostering independence, you equip your child not just for camp, but for life. Indeed, every supportive gesture is like packing a little piece of home for them to carry in their hearts. Happy camping!
Author
Dr. Muhammad Zeshan Headshot Dr. Muhammad Zeshan My name is Muhammad Zeshan, MD, and I am a Harvard trained infant, child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist at Inside Out, a private practice based in Princeton, New Jersey. I am currently working as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School-Newark, New Jersey. Through Inside Out CURE, my focus is to help individuals become more Compassionate, Understanding, and aware of their inner strength and vulnerabilities, while developing Resilience and Empathy. I offer a variety of mental health care services to all age groups (infancy through adulthood) by applying principals of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, positive psychology, family therapy, parent-child intervention therapy, pharmacology, and neuroscience.

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