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Planning to send your child to summer camp can be a fun experience, but it can also be nerve-racking for both of you if they’ve never gone away before. There are several things to research and think about, including financing and how to handle homesickness, so it’s important to be well organized and educated on all the different camp experiences your child can have. Not only will it help your child have a great summer, but it will also help you have peace of mind when they are away from home. 

Many parents have trouble letting go when it’s time for their child to leave for several weeks, but it’s an important part of helping your child become more independent. It also gives you and your partner a chance to reconnect and take a breather so you can be your best selves when your child returns from camp.

The most important steps in planning a trip to summer camp are to get organized, create a packing list, and take some tours of different facilities (if possible) to choose the best one for their needs. Here are a few of the best tips on how to do just that.

Educate your child

Have a talk with your child about all the things they might experience at camp, including the dangers the outdoors can bring. Bring up pool or lake safety, the importance of wearing bug spray and sunscreen, staying hydrated, and how to stay clean and dry by changing undershirts and socks during the day. 

Send them with their old clothes

You might be tempted to buy new clothes for your child’s trip, but it’s actually better if he brings his old comfy T-shirts and shorts. This way, not only is it okay if they get dirty or torn, but he’ll have items he’s familiar with, which can help with homesickness.

Take a tour

Do some research on different camps near you and set up tours so that you can put your concerns to rest and talk to the staff about how they run the camp. Some questions you might want to ask include how they handle injuries and homesickness, whether your child will be allowed to call home if he needs to, whether there is a nurse on staff, what the menu is like, and how many kids will be bunking together. 

Provide examples

While some kids do well with jumping into the fray, other kids need a little coaching to prepare for their first trip to sleepaway camp. If your kiddo seems anxious, take some time to show him some of what he can expect. Spend an afternoon turning your backyard into a geological hunt, complete with magnifying glasses and a small shovel, or show him some of the easiest ways to bait a hook and practice for when it’s time to fish. You can also explain campfire safety, and even show him the best way to cook S’mores. With these new experiences under his belt, he’ll have a more seamless transition to camp. 

Stay in touch

Once your child is safely ensconced at camp, encourage him to write home and send letters in return. Even if he’s only away for a few weeks, it can be a great experience to exchange correspondence, and it may even help you bond in a different way.

Look into financing

Many camps will be happy to help you finance your child’s stay, so look into financial aid or discounts if more than one child attends. Look for camps within 30 to 40 miles of your home to help keep costs down, and ask friends and family to contribute funds for birthdays instead of buying presents. You can also start saving ahead of time for a “canteen fund” for your child, which will allow him to purchase treats outside of the normal mealtimes.

Help him stay the course

Homesickness can lead to lots of tears and emotional breakdowns, but try not to let it affect you. Remind your child that he has made a commitment for the summer and that it will be better in the long run if he sticks it out. Show him your love and support and let him know that you have confidence that he can do it. 

Try to stay patient with your child and offer support by working with his counselors and the camp director if he has trouble adjusting. Many kids have issues when they first arrive, but they usually come to love camp once they get used to it. Paving the way for another adventure next year.