Preparing Your Child for School Camp
Preparing for school camp or excursion can be exciting but terrifying for both you and your child especially if this is the first time. Whether he will be attending a week long school camp or he will be going on a trip with his class for the weekend, you want to prepare him for anything. So below we’ve outlined the best ways to prepare yourself and your child for school camp.
Tell Your Child What to Expect
Going away from home for a night or more can be pretty scary for some kids, especially little ones who have never experienced being away from home before. If your child is not used to sleeping away from home, then he may not be ready to go away for the weekend. Talk to him about attending camp and find out his feelings about it. If he is feeling anxious rather than excited, then it might be best to postpone the camp until the next year. There will be plenty of chances to attend camp but it’s best to wait until your child is ready to ensure a positive rather than nerve-wracking experience.
If you have time before the camp, think about sending your child to Grandma’s for the night (or similar) to get them accustomed to sleeping away from home, but in a safe environment.
Do Some Practice at Home
Let your child sleep in their camp sleeping bag at home. Get them used to getting dressed and putting their things away in a suitcase. Anything your child is worried about can be practised and gone through at home without the worry.
Nifty Hint: If your child is going to a cold place for their camp, buy thermals, and they can double as their pyjamas!
Consider Your Child’s Past Experiences
How does your child go with sleepovers at friend’s houses? Does he usually need to call you before he goes to bed or do you often have to get up in the middle of the night to go and pick him up? If this is the case, then attending an overnight camp may not be a good idea. In some instances, he may be too far away for you to drive and get him and he will probably feel embarrassed having to call home with peers around. You don’t want to put him in this position unless he is confident and ready to spend the night away from home. Some kids may be happy to leave Mum and Dad at the age of five while others will still be cautious about attending overnight camp at 9 or 10.
Again do some practice with Grandma, and try (very hard) to ‘let go’ and allow your child to find themselves on these overnight excursions.
Organize a Day Visit the Camp
If your child is extremely anxious about the school camp, see if you can organize a day trip to the camp before your child goes. That way he will be familiar with the environment. If this is not possible, then browse through the website and look through the brochure together so that he will know a little bit of what to expect.
Very anxious children should maybe just spend the days at the camp, then come home to Mum at night (if this is possible). But leave your child with the class during the day without you – this gives them independence and space to make up their minds about the overnight stay.
It’s Not Your Child that is Scared, It is YOU!
Maybe it isn’t your child that is anxious, but it is you. When you think about it, this generation of parents have really been bought up to expect the worst in people – and this can make it difficult for parents to ‘let go’ and let their child go to camps or excursions. The problem is that these experiences are so good for kids, and is something they will look back on fondly for the rest of their lives.
If your child is ready but you aren’t, try the day visit at the camp to ease your worry. Seeing your child having a good time will allay any fears you might have.
Practice Being Independent
Going to overnight camp is all about being responsible and being independent. You will not be there to tie his shoelaces, to clean up his dinner plate and to pack his suitcase when it’s time to go home. These are things that your child will need to learn how to do himself before it’s time to go. Perhaps do some role-playing and let your child learn how to do these things before he goes. That way he will feel more confident. One other thing you should always practice is asking for help from adults. There will be counsellors, mentors and supervisors there but often children are too shy to ask for help.
While it may be your second nature to reassure your child that if something goes wrong, you will be there in a heartbeat. However, this is not something you want to set your child up for. Rather, focus on how much fun he will have and how exciting it will be. Try to avoid negative thoughts and phrases such as “If you get homesick, I will be right there” or “if you’re not having fun, then I will come get you.” Let him experience the good, the bad and the somewhat scary situations for himself to help him develop his own independence and problem-solving skills.