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Preparing Your Child For Camp

You have selected a suitable camp for your child. Now what? It's time to prepare your child for camp in order to help create a positive experience.

Your child will probably have questions and concerns about camp. "What if I don't like the food... What if I have to go to the bathroom at night...What if I get homesick?" Listen to your child and answer the questions simply and honestly. You may need to call the camp director for some answers. If the issue of homesickness is raised, reassure your child that many children feel homesick at times, but the feeling will pass. Tell your child to share this problem and any other problems with counselors who are there to help.

If your child is going to camp with a friend, discuss the importance of making new friends and not feeling dependent on one friend. If your child does not have any contacts, consider the possibility of meeting another new camper briefly so that both children will know a familiar face at camp.

You will be getting a suggested list of clothing and equipment from the camp. This list was thoughtfully prepared. Do not send extras. Your child will probably wear favorite things over and over. Do not send anything that you could not bear getting back in less than excellent condition. The easiest way to shop is to go to a camp outfitter which provides a full service including sewing in name tapes and ordering camp uniforms.

You may have the option of taking your child to camp of having him go on a camp bus. Keep in mind that acquaintances are made and friendships begun on a camp bus.

Letters are important. Write often. Ask questions about camp but don't expect to get specific answers or long detailed letters telling you how wonderful it is at camp. Relay family news. Do not focus on missing your child. You may get a letter that sounds like this: "I hate camp. The kids are mean and the food is terrible." Do not become overly alarmed. Call a close friend who has a child at camp who will listen, commiserate and be supportive. By the time you've received he letter, chances are the upset is history and your child is having a ball. If, however, you continue to receive letters which indicate unhappiness, call the camp director to discuss the situation.

You may get lots of "I want, I need, I must have..." letters. I spent everyday of my child's first summer at camp buying things and going to the post office. I overdid it. It's nice to send a surprise package once in a while. Check camp policy of food.

Each camp has its own telephone policy. Too often, calls can do more harm than good. A child can become too engaged and have difficulty separating. Keep phone calls short.

Some camps have specific visiting days or weekends; others have open visitations which means parents can visit whenever they want. Enjoy your visit without overextending your stay which may result in difficulty in separating.

If you plan to travel, do not talk too enthusiastically about your trip. Your child might feel left out. Also, give your itinerary to the director in case you need to be reached.

If you follow all these instructions to the letter, your child will still have at least one gripe; too few packages or not the right kind; letters are too long or short; too many blue tee shirts and not enough whites; you didn't say you missed me enough or you miss me too much. Whatever went wrong, you'll have another chance next year at being a better camp parent.