Preparing your child for camp
While we all understand the incredible personal and spiritual benefits of a camp experience, we at GENEVA also recognize that sometimes both parents and campers are quite anxious in preparing for their week. Here is our advice for giving your child the best opportunity for a positive week:
Create positive expectations
- Involve your child in the decision to go to camp. Tell them why you think they will enjoy it and let them tell you what they are looking forward to.
- Share your own experiences and memories of attending camp.
- Have your child talk with other children who have attended camp about their experiences and memories.
- Borrow a camp video and let you child see what camp will be like, or watch the highlight video.
Prepare them for the experience
- Visit the camp before their camp week. GENEVA has camp tour days in March and April and an open house for campers in May that allows prospective campers to see the facilities, meet some of the staff, and lessen their anxiety.
- Practice staying away from home overnight. Allow your child to stay for a weekend with a grandparent or friend where they can get used to another bed and different environment without you present.
- Encourage and prepare the child to take care of themselves by picking out their clothes, making their bed, putting away their dirty clothes, and using their toiletries at home.
- Buy a journal for your child. Write the names of the days at the top of every few pages and begin statements for them to complete such as: My favorite game today was ______. Today in Bible Study I learned ______. A funny thing that happened today was ______. Tomorrow I’m want to try ______. Reserve pages for them to later insert pictures they need to take of new friends, their counselor and their cabin.
- Look at the camp schedule ahead of time so your child knows what to expect each day.
- Talk about homesickness and what to do if they feel it. Let your camper know it is natural to feel anxious when they are separated from you, but that moving past it is an important step in growing up and they can overcome it.
- Discuss "what if" scenarios—losing something, feeling afraid, not feeling well, having a conflict with another camper, and what they should do if any of these occur, such as talk with their counselor.
- Include your child in packing for camp. Review the packing list and decide what to bring together, talk about what to wear, and have them help pick out clothes. Often children love the packing process and will want to begin packing far before their camp session.
Follow up during and after camp
- Send them mail (letters, faxes, or email) during the week, but keep them positive. Don’t tell them how much you miss them and what they are missing, but focus on their experiences, how much fun they must be having and whether they’ve tried certain activities. You can even encourage them to try specific activities and let them know that you want to hear all about it when they get home.
- Don’t rush your child away from camp when you pick them up. Take time to hear their stories, let them show you some of the places that were important to them, and have them introduce you to some of their favorite people.
- Ask them questions about the fun times they had, the highlights of their week, their favorite songs or games, their achievements, and life in the cabin. Show enthusiasm for what they experienced and express how grateful you are that they could have such a great time. It’s the first step in preparing them for camp next year!