As the school year draws to a close, the realization hits you: this is the summer. The one where your precious child is about to embark on yet another milestone: sleepaway camp. The questions flutter through your mind. What if he gets sick? What if she cries because she’s so homesick? What if he needs something you’ve forgotten to send?
What if, what if, what if…to paraphrase a quote from my husband’s drill sergeant in basic training, what if worms had machine guns? Would robins mess with them? “What if” questions can drive you insane. So take a deep breath, stop the mental locomotive running through your head, and do a few simple things to help your child prepare:
1. Have him spend a night or a weekend at a friend’s house. This gives him a taste of what it’s like to be away from home, but he’s still in a place that feels safe and familiar.
2. Encourage her. Talk about experiences that she has had that show she has the skills to do this—for example, maybe she’s gone to a new class or activity before and made some new friends. If you have fun camp experiences from your own youth to share, then do so.
3. Don’t gush. It’s okay to admit you’re going to miss your child, but don’t belabor the point. You’ll freak her out and raise her anxiety levels. Instead, admit matter-of-factly that you’ll miss her, but then turn the conversation to how proud you are of her. Focus on the independence she will gain from her time away from home and the stories she’ll have to tell when she gets home.
4. Pack early. Make sure your child has everything he needs, and double-and triple-check the list with him. If a stuffed animal is allowed and he wants to bring one, then let him. A lot of first-timers will have a furry companion to hold at night.
Thanks to R-MA Clinical Counselor Connie Richards for her input into this blog topic.