How to Make Summer Camp Prep a Breeze

Summer is upon us, which means long days of fun in the sun stretch ahead of us — or at least for our kids. While we’re stepping into our stuffy, hot suits to trek to work with business as usual, our kids are getting ready for summer camp. But what if it’s their first time away? How do you help them prepare for sleep-away camp, especially when everyone is nervous about being away from one another?

Follow these seven tips to make summer camp prep a breeze.

Read: The Most Unique Summer Camps in the U.S.

1. Set expectations

If it’s the first time your kid is going to sleep-away camp, they may not know what to expect. Talk with them about their concerns and share your own experiences or those of others (there are some great books to help prep your kids for sleep-away camp). Knowing what to expect, as much as you’re able, will help ease fears (and also set levels of excitement if it’s unrealistic) and will temper everyone’s approach as the first day of camp approaches.

2. Make a list

Make a list of all the things you’ll need to pack so you don’t forget important things. The camp may be somewhere more remote that doesn’t allow for last-minute drugstore runs. Be sure to pack essentials, like plenty of underwear and socks (all clothes should have your kid’s initials or name written on them), layers for cooler nights, rain gear, insect spray, sunblock and toiletries. Don’t forget to add some small reminders of home to help with potential homesickness. Do, though, steer clear of packing any valuables.

3. Do research together

So much of being afraid has to do with feeling like something is unknown and therefore unsafe. Knowledge truly is power, and your kids will feel it too. Do research together on the camp history and activities and on the area the camp is located in. It’s great bonding time and a fun way to transform anxieties about the unknown into excitement about what’s to come. You might even plan to spend a little bit of time doing something in the area before you part ways, a great way to create memories together that your child can lean on if they feel homesick.

4. Pursue advance socializing

Take advantage of any opportunities to connect with other families attending the camp in advance of start day. Don’t blow off any orientation or social events planned, as attending those can help ease any concerns you or your kids might have about what to expect. Check out the website and social media channels for the camp as well, as that could be a good opportunity to connect with people from other geographic regions who might attending. There’s nothing better than making a friend before you go, as it will give your kid something to look forward to and greatly reduce social anxiety.

Read: The Ultimate Summer Camp Packing List

5. Plan your communications 

Before your child goes away, discuss plans for regular communications. Avoid pressures to equip them with a cell phone just to stay in touch, as tempting and as logical as that seems. They will default to texting friends from home and scrolling Instagram instead of making new friends and engaging with the outdoors and the various camp activities that are good for the digitally disconnected soul. Use the opportunity to celebrate pastimes like snail mail, and let your kid pick out stationary and stamps they like. Pledge to write a letter a week, and up the frequency if they are having a tough time.

6. Create an escape plan

You don’t want to talk extensively about an escape strategy and offer to pick your kid up if they call and say they hate it and want to come home (time-tested summer camp veteran parents say this offer is more likely to result in kids giving up too early). You can, though, create some set of criteria with your child so they don’t feel stranded or all alone. Maybe offer to visit for the day or take them out to lunch if they’re feeling really homesick or having trouble. Help them understand they should connect with a counselor or set up phone time with a close friend and confidante so they can channel concerns or issues through healthy channels without giving up that hefty sum you paid for them to attend only to have them later regret leaving early. Of course, make it clear that if something truly egregious happens and they no long feel safe, you will rescue them and protect them always.

7. Set an example 

Don’t walk around in the days leading up to drop-off time letting your kid know just how sad you are they are leaving and how much you’ll miss them. This will only serve to increase their anxiety about leaving. Show your excitement about the opportunities they’ll have and get them pumped up about what they’re about to experience.

Read: The Best Summer Camp Based on Your Kid’s Astrological Sign

Sleep-away camp is a huge leap for kids, and it can be quite nerve-wracking leaving home for what might be the first time and for what feels like a long time. Help ease their worries and create positive energy around what you hope will be a great time.

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