Dropping your child off at summer camp for the first time can be one of the hardest things a parents does. In one of our staff training sessions the other day, an experienced camp mother explained to the counselors their role in greeting and welcoming campers on opening day. This not only includes meeting their excited or nervous new campers but also understanding what parents are going through. She said “dropping my children off at camp was much more difficult for me than dropping them off at college…we are entrusting our children to you, and we ask you to love them and keep them safe and happy.” As a parent you have to trust that the camp you chose will do this for your child, and that the adventures, friendships, self esteem and independence they encounter throughout their camp journey will be well worth your time apart.
You can also make this process easier for both your child and yourself by planning ahead and following these tips.
1) Arrive with your paperwork in order. It will make your check in easy and quick!
2) Plan ahead with your child how they would like to manage drop off. They may have an opinion! Read this article on one child’s requests.
3) Help your child settle in, but keep your visit short and do not linger to long at camp. They will participate and make friends more quickly once you have said your goodbyes and departed. This may especially help children who are worried about saying goodbye and the separation, the longer it drags out, the more anxiety may build up.
4) Meet your child’s Counselor and Unit Director/Leader. Seeing these important role models will help you envision their time at camp after you have departed.
5) If you or your child are worried about homesickness – do not make promises for “opt outs” or early pickups. Instead tell your child that you are proud of them for taking this step, and that you know they can do it! Showing your confidence that they can make it through their camp session and that you will see them at closing day (or for a planned visit) will help your child believe in themselves.
6) Save your tears for the parking lot if possible. Camp Directors and staff understand and will help you! Try to wait to let your own emotions out after saying goodbye to your child. You do not want them worrying about you! But instead focusing on themselves and their own adjustment to camp.
Enjoy these additional resources for summer camp families.
Dr Chris Thurber: Resources for Families
Psychologist Michael Thompson: Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow
We cannot wait to see our campers arrive!
Susie Sudduth Hammond
Assistant Director – Wyonegonic Camps