Parenting & Families

Helping Your Child Gear Up for Summer Camp

More than six million children will attend one of the 10,000 summer camps in the United States this year. Sixty percent of these programs are designed for children to sleep away from home. While some children eagerly anticipate this time away from home, for others it can be an emotional experience. Dr. Gail Gross, a nationally recognized expert on juvenile education and development issues, encourages parents to help their children face homesickness and to not only survive summer camp but to enjoy it.

Dr. Gail Gross’s Strategies for Acclimating Your Child to Time Away From Home

  • Begin with practice sleepovers. Choose a relative or family friend’s house to adapt your child to being away from home for the night.
  • Chart your child’s progress. Construct a chart by marking successful overnight stays to serve as a visible reminder of his/her progress.
  • Visit summer camps. Fear of the unknown is terrifying for many first-time campers. Familiarizing children with a summer camp setting will help put their minds at ease. Let them see what a camp looks like and where the important things (lunch hall, bathrooms, bunks) are located.
  • Meet the camp director. The camp director can make or break a child’s first summer camp experience. Introduce them and allow them to interact before camp begins.
  • Offer reassurance. Long before the bags have been packed, offer upbeat words of encouragement. Never discuss how much your child will be missed back home. Instead, keep the focus on them and the camp experience. Resist calling your children at camp too often. This contact will sabotage their efforts to separate and succeed on their own.