8 tips to prepare your child for overnight camp

Can you remember the first time you went to a sleepaway camp, how scared and excited you were to be away from home? Homesickness is common at overnight camp. Many campers miss home at some point during their stay. These 8 tips can prepare your camper for homesickness 

1. Learn more about the camp with your camper so they can anticipate what it will be like

Why not plan a visit to the camp that your child will be staying at? You can also take your child and attend a pre-camp information session. Doing this will help ease some of the uncertainty your child is feeling before going to camp. It also provides a wonderful opportunity to connect with your child and build excitement around the activities that await your camper.   

2. Plan a sleepover for your child 

This is a good way for a child to learn exactly what it will be like to be away from home. Make it a game that you and your child can play, pretend that they are going off to camp, help them pack for their experience and remind them to only call home if there is an emergency. Don’t be afraid to provide some examples of what an emergency is.  

3. Talk to your child about homesickness  

It is okay to talk about homesickness with your child. However, encourage your camper to take the challenge head on and that this will be a fun adventure where they will learn lots and make lots of friends. We understand sending your child to camp is a challenge for the parents as well, but it is important that you don’t let them see your uncertainty if you are feeling that way. Show to them that your confident they will be able to overcome the challenge and have a lot of fun. Encourage them if they are feeling homesick to talk with their counsellor, friends, write a letter home or hug their favorite stuffed animal. If your child is anxious about how he/she will get a hold of you, let him/her know that the counsellor knows that you are just a phone call away if needed.  

4. Use a calendar to show the amount of time your camper will be away  

It is important to go through the calendar with your camper before they leave. This way you can show them how long they will be away from home. The visual will help the child feel more comfortable.  Also, do not plan any family-fun activities while your camper is away, this can cause the camper to feel like they are missing out on something fun while away from home.  

5. Help your camper get excited about camp  

Once you have shown your camper the dates they will be at camp. It is your job to start getting them excited about camp. Talk about camp regularly, start showing them the activities they will be doing, ask them what they are most excited about and be just as excited as they are about it. Remember, building that excitement before is crucial! Plus, you will get just as excited for your child’s adventure as they are.  

6. Pack a personal item to remind your child of home  

Sending a personal item such as a photograph or a stuffed animal will help the child feel more comfortable when away from home.  

7. Send pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes and paper for your camper to write letters  

This will provide an opportunity for your camper to write a letter home when at camp. Sometimes just writing down their thoughts and sending it home will help ease the homesickness. 

8. What to do at drop off… 

Avoid making comments that may reflect your anxiety around sending your child to camp. Phrases such as “I hope you’ll be ok” or “what will I do without you” may leave a child worried that something bad might happen to them or their parents which can lead to homesickness. Instead show how confident you are in them by saying “I know that you’re looking forward to a lot of the activities at camp. I can’t wait to hear your stories!”  

Overnight camp is a wonderful experience for your child to learn new skills, more about themselves and make lots of friends! Don’t let homesickness get in the way by using these 8 tips to prepare your child (and yourself!) before heading to camp.  

Information was referenced from: https://www.albertacamping.com and our Camp Chief Hector YMCA staff.  


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