First Time at Camp: Tips for Easing Anxiety

First Time at Camp: Tips for Easing Anxiety
Summer Camp - photo courtesy of Hannah Luedt

Summer Camp – photo courtesy of Hannah Luedt

Your fond memories of summers spent at camp, the smell of sunscreen rushes in to greet you as if you were there right now. Summer camp was a positive experience for you and now your child has come to the age of being able to head off for their first summer camp! As excited as you recall yourself being gearing up for camp, your child does not know the full scope of what summer camp is all about; their minds may be racing with questions instead of dancing with thoughts of things to do while away at camp.

Overnight camps or day camps can be intimidating for first time attendees, but there are ways to prevent breakdowns or undo anxiety. Maybe your parents used the same strategies with you before your first time leaving for camp, and if they worked for you, it’s worth utilizing those same techniques with your own child. If you’re unsure or cannot remember, here’s the perfect chance for you and your parents to sit down with your child and make this a family affair. To get you started, here are our tips for easing your first time camper’s anxiety.

Hidden messages!

Let your first time camper know you’re thinking of them while they’re away by packing surprise notes in their overnight bags, lunch bags or in the pocket of their jacket. Finding these surprise messages will provide encouragement each day knowing that you are thinking about them and miss them, yet give them a push to carry on with their summer camp experience.

Packing: Should it stay or should it go?

It’s worth checking the camp supply list and rules on personal items. Day camps and overnight camps may allow you to pack your child’s favorite item, from Teddy Bear to Cinderella t-shirt. Personal items (that are labeled) not only keep your child connected to home, but act as a conversation starter with new bunk-mates or campers. Even sending a family picture with your child to camp counts as a small reminder of who’s missing them at home.

A taste of home

Snacks…Remember that stash of chocolate you hid under your bunk – top secret and a quick pick me up? Your child is going to want the same: a favorite snack for when lunch is too far away or they’re up late reading comic books or talking about boys with a new friend. Even at a day camp, small snacks will be appreciated by your child. Sending their favorite potato chip or candy bar is another way to sweeten the deal of heading to summer camp. Just make sure you do not go overboard on the junk food, as heat and physical activity can lead to dehydration or worse if your child doesn’t take care of themselves nutritionally.

A note from home

If your child is at an overnight camp, sending them a letter can be the most inspiring. If you’ve ever been at camp while they were passing out mail, and your name was called, it’s electric! Send your child a short letter listing out all the day to day chores you’ve been tackling like laundry and mowing the yard so they know they are not missing much at home. It’s, of course, just as important to let them know that you miss them, but hope they’re having fun. In that same letter send a stamped envelope encouraging them to write you back. As parents you’ll get just as excited seeing their letter waiting in your mailbox, listing out their new friends and dishing the dirt on some Drill Sergeant-type camp counselor that enforces lights out.summer camp welcome

As you send them off to camp for the first time this summer, cherish the moments they spend lingering by your side because next year they’ll be running towards camp check-in so fast you’ll barely be able to squeeze in one last hug before they are off, relishing in the feeling a summer spent at camp brings.

Share your favorite memories from summer camp in the comments below!

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