I have spent 13 summers working at summer camps - both as summer staff and full-time staff. This past summer, my son was finally old enough to be a day camper. And I panicked! What if he gets lost? What if they don’t notice he ran away? What if he struggles at the pool? What if he doesn’t make new friends? What if he fails at something and it makes him sad? The reality was, my son was ready for camp; I was not.
Asking if your kid is ready for camp is a perfectly valid question, but equally (and maybe more so) valid is if YOU are ready for your kid to be at camp! At camp, kids are going to be introduced to new activities, new experiences, new people, and with that, they will be challenged. The right camp with the right program is going to keep your kid appropriately challenged and will encourage them along the way. But part of the power of camp is that challenge of a camper being stretched outside of their comfort zone so that they can learn and grow in a safe environment. So, mom, dad, grandparent, guardian……are YOU ready for your camper to experience that? Are you ready to let them grow in a safe place that will challenge them in an appropriate and encouraging way? Are you ready for them to learn resilience, perseverance, and courage?
If you’re ready - and I hope you are! - help introduce the idea of camp to your child. Is it a day camp? Are they at school during the day and used to being instructed and led by someone outside the home? They’re likely ready for camp! Are they homeschooled and have never spent a full-day away from home? Ask your camp for a tour and bring your child. Start allowing them to stay with family or friends for a meal. Help prepare them for what a day camp might be like away from you. What about overnight camp? Maybe your child has stayed somewhere overnight before, and maybe they haven’t. Your camper may still be ready and could have an excellent experience! Ask your camp how they train counselors to work with homesick campers, how they handle bedwetting, and what camper-counselor ratios are. Staff should want to partner with families to help their kids be successful at camp. We believe in the power of camp, and that means kids feeling comfortable, wanting to stay, and getting good sleep.
I once worked with a camper who was staying the night at camp for his first time away from home. He was missing home in a big way. I spoke with his mom and dad, asked them what his bedtime routine was like at home and how we could help encourage him to stay. Based on that conversation, I was able to go find his big sister, and she gave him a big hug and encouraged him that camp was awesome! I then got this camper and his counselors a big ol’ glass of chocolate milk - something he had every night at home before bed. The crying, scared little boy who was brought to my office left that evening with his counselors with confidence and courage. I’m glad we didn’t give up on him, and I’m glad his parents didn’t either.
Your child is likely ready for camp...are you?