How do you know when your child is ready for overnight camp? Long before summer camp even starts, parents can start preparing their daughters for a successful camp experience.
7 Ways to Prepare Your Daughter for a Successful Camp Experience
1. Talk about camp—all the new friends and fun activities that she will enjoy. Let your daughter know why you’re sending her to camp—to have fun, laugh, make new friends, practice independence, get dirty, try new things, etc.
2. Prepare your daughter for being away at camp by encouraging her to spend a night or weekend with friends or relatives prior to camp.
3. Reassure your daughter that you will write often—and keep that promise! Short and cheerful letters or cards are best. It’s a real boost for a camper to have mail waiting for her arrival at camp.
4. The more children know about Camp Juliette Low, the more secure they feel. Attending a Parent-Daughter Weekend (held the first weekend in May every year), seeing pictures of CJL, or seeing a camp video helps her begin to become familiar with the camp surroundings.
5. Meeting other campers from your local area will also help. Call our Winter Office and we will help you find a friend.
6. Your daughter should know all about the plans of those at home. Parents who will be out of town should let their child know when and where they can be reached. Also, notifying the camp office of this information is very important.
7. Before camp, spend some extra time with young campers practicing life skills: organizing clothes (this is where zip lock bags come in handy for packing—see packing tips section), personal hygiene (particularly hair care—she should be able to shampoo, thoroughly rinse, and comb her own hair), making the bed, folding clothes, etc. These skills will be very helpful to her at camp. Long hair can be difficult for young girls to manage, so knowing how to put hair in a ponytail or braid is very helpful.
Coping with Missing Home
Making sure your daughter is prepared for camp is the first step to making sure that they will enjoy their time away. The second step is to arm your camper with helpful coping strategies.
CJL also provides support and guidance for campers who are anxious about missing home. Our counselors learn to recognize and help girls with anxious feelings. The combination of a warm, supportive environment and a busy schedule of activities will help most girls get over their anxieties very quickly—usually within a day or two. The Camp Director will contact you if your daughter is missing home after the first day or two of camp—together, we will work on a plan to help your daughter adjust to camp life.
7 Strategies for Helping Campers Cope with Missing Home
1. Let your daughter know that missing home is a normal feeling and that the best cure is to get busy enjoying the activities and people at camp. Be positive, and let her know that her homesick feelings will likely fade as she makes new friends and becomes more comfortable with the routines of camp.
2. Help your daughter pick out something special from home that she can hold or look at when she gets lonely—a book, a stuffed animal (pick one that can be washed), or a family photo. Here is 1 idea we love: Tape a family photo with a simple, paper frame to the inside of her trunk. On the frame, write the things you hope your daughter will do every day while she’s at camp, for example: Smile, Laugh, Make a New Friend, Try Something New, Be Kind, Be Independent, Be Brave, Have Fun. The photo will feel like a hug and a pep-talk every time she opens her trunk!
3. Arm her with several different coping strategies to help her get through times when she is missing home: write in a letter or journal about a fun activity or a new friend; write down or name 3 things she enjoyed that day and 3 things she's looking forward to doing tomorrow; make plans with a new friend to be “buddies” for activities like rec swim; take deep breaths and focus on positive thoughts; talk to a counselor and ask for help.
4. Please do not tell your daughter that you will come pick her up if she doesn’t like camp. If you do this, it undermines her ability to overcome this challenge, and we are defeated before we ever start. Instead, assure her that that her counselors will help her. Let her know that facing and overcoming difficulties, in a safe and encouraging environment, builds resilience and gives campers confidence in themselves that they have the ability to recover from setbacks, face adversity, and adapt to change. Note that early departure due to homesickness is not considered a reason for refund of camp fees according to camp policy.
5. Write happy letters to your camper every day! Parents may also wish to place one or several "missing home" notes in the camper's trunk that she can open if she's missing home and needs a boost. They might include how proud you are that she is doing her best at camp, a list of the things she was looking forward to doing, and the things you are excited to learn about when she comes back.
6. Make your farewells brief and positive. Don’t linger and/or say long and sad goodbyes. It’s normal for parents to feel nervous or sad about a child going away to camp, but it’s best not to share those feelings with her. Smile and be positive!
7. Please let the Camp Director know if you suspect that your daughter will anxious due to missing home. Feel free to talk with the Camp Director in confidence about personal issues at home. The stress that your child may be experiencing can be greatly minimized by an informed staff.
6 Ways to Help Your Child Beat Summer Camp Homesickness — Mari Jane Williams (Washington Post)
Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow — Michael Thompson
Search for articles on the American Camp Association (ACA) website– http://www.acacamps.org/