7 Tips for Preparing You and Your Child for a Successful Experience at Sleepaway Camp

Three smiling children stand together on a wooden deck surrounded by forest, appearing to embody the adventurous spirit of The Scout Guide. The deck overheads a natural area suggesting a setting suitable for exploration or a scouting activity. The two girls, dressed casually in a white t-shirt, mint shorts, and a pink t-shirt with polka dot shorts, flank a boy in a red Under Armour t-shirt and plaid shorts, wearing bright blue sneakers with orange socks. Their cheerful expressions and close stance indicate a bond of friendship or camaraderie as they enjoy their day amidst the trees.

Summer is upon us which means it’s time to get those kids out of school and into camp! Transitions can be hard, and for those going away to sleepaway for the first time they are sure to be feeling all the feels! Tracey Weiss of Weiss Wellness provides 7 tips for parents to help their child create unforgettable memories and build confidence this summer!

Tip #1 – talk about it! 

Show your enthusiasm by talking about all the positive things camp has to offer and the new activities your child will get to do! If you seem excited there is a better chance your child will follow suit. Bonus if you can connect with other new families/campers starting camp this year as well! Helping kids connect with other new campers can make things feel a little less scary/unknown. 

Tip #2 – Validate his/her feelings! 

It is NORMAL to be nervous about sleepaway camp! Whether this is your child’s first year or ninth: transitions can be hard! For first year campers a fear of the unknown makes sense! Some ways to validate: 

1. “I totally get why you are nervous; this is a brand new experience for all of us!”

2. “Change is hard and I know you are going to do great!” 

3. “I know you may be feeling anxious and I’m here to talk whenever you need” **Try to avoid saying “Don’t be nervous.” This can feel extremely invalidating and make your child feel like it’s not normal to feel this way. 

Tip #3 – Do not make promises! (especially ones you don’t plan to keep)

Do not make promises or put ideas into your child’s head. IE

– “If you don’t like it after a week we will come get you” 

– “If you’re feeling homesick you can always call us” 

– “If you’re still nervous on the first day you don’t have to go” 

Tip #4 – Be a cheerleader! 

Be positive! Let’s psych these kids up! While you may be feeling all the same feelings as your child, this is the time to put on a brave face and “fake it ‘til you make it!” Cheerlead your child and let them know you believe in them and how excited you are for them to have this experience! 

Tip #5 – Don’t project your emotions onto your child! 

Of course you are going to have emotions about your child leaving as well. This is a transition for parents too! 

It is so important to remind yourself that just because you may feel anxious or nervous, that doesn’t necessarily mean your child is anxious and nervous. 

Take your cues from your child and don’t make assumptions! Follow their lead! 

Tip #6 – Once your child is at camp, DO NOT over analyze every picture!

Camps posting hundreds of pictures daily has become the new norm: leaving parents slaves to their apps, constantly refreshing for the newest uploads. 

I can assure you, there will be pictures of your child not smiling. There will be pictures of your child off to the side. There will be pictures of their bunk without them. All of this is because a picture is a snapshot in time, one fleeting moment. We do not have the full story…

Do not hang onto every picture as fact. Do not create your own narrative. Let’s trust that if something is wrong the camp will let you know. (And if you are truly concerned you can always email a group leader!) 

Tip #7 – Be smart about emails/letters! 

Hand written letters and emails are a great way to keep in contact with your child! That being said, be intentional about what you write. Continue to cheerlead your child from a far. You can fill them in on what’s happening at home but be wary of making them feel like they are missing out on anything. 

– “We miss you and can tell from your pictures you’re having the best time at camp!”

– “We can’t believe visiting day is already just two weeks away! The summer is flying by!” 

Most importantly, have a fun and safe summer! Enjoy and Relax!

Tracey Weiss of Weiss Wellness / 551-284-3373 / @weisswellnessnj