It's the time of year where kids are packing up for a week (or more) at summer camp. If it's the first time they are attending sleep-away camp, they (and you) may be a little nervous. Here are a few ideas to help make that time away from home easier on the two of you.
1. Be positive. If you show enthusiasm and excitement, your child will know that it's all going to be OK. Save any tears that may come for after you've driven away.
2. Walk through the week. Most camps provide a daily itinerary. Go through it with your child and answer any questions they may have (i.e. "What's a canteen?") and tell them about your own camp experiences if you went as a child. Talk about which friends they know will be there and how much fun they're all going to have.
3. Have them do the packing. Print off (or create) a packing list. Letting them pack their bags and check off each item as it is packed makes them take ownership of the experience and may help them feel more "grown up." Be sure to check it, of course. They can never have too many pairs of underwear.
4. Do a practice run. If this is the first time your child will be sleeping away from home, it might be a good idea to practice close to home first. Have them sleepover at a friend's house so that they get an idea of what it's like to sleep away from home.
5. Bring something from home. A favorite toy, a photo of your family, or a favorite pillow may give them comfort if they start missing you while at camp.
6. Have "what if" conversations. Walking through circumstances that may arise outside of the itinerary will help your child feel like they can handle anything that comes up. What if they feel left out? What if they get sick? Make sure they know who to talk to if they are having any problems.
7. Communicate. Some camps don't allow phone calls because that makes it harder on the children. Do they allow letters? If so, consider sending a letter the week before to ensure that your child gets it while they are there. Keep it light and fun so that it doesn't cause homesickness.
8. Keep yourself busy. If this is the first time your child is going to camp, you may find yourself missing them and having a hard time imagining that your "baby" is old enough to stay away from you. Plan outings with your husband, friends and other children if you have ones that are not at camp. The week will fly by and before you know it, it will be time to pick up your little camper.