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A Campy Crowd: Sending Your Child Off To Camp

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

If you’re thinking about sending your child off to summer camp, you’re probably not alone. Summer camp is a great getaway for kids whose parents have to work and possible can’t take a summer break. Plus, it opens a world of new and exciting experiences, including the opportunity to make new friends.

But, for many parents and their children, camp can be an experience that’s got them just as anxious as they are enthusiastic.

Here’s what you need to know and how to handle some of your basic concerns.

What’s so great about camp? Camp allows kids to become independent and to appreciate some, if not all, of the amenities and luxuries they have at home. In addition, it teaches kids about being part of a “group” that’s NOT their immediate family and having to take responsibility for themselves and others, building confidence and social skills, plus giving them a sense of pride in their growth and accomplishments. And, as we said before, it helps them also expand their social circle, giving them a change to meet and make new friends.

Day camp vs. sleep-away camp: Children younger than 7 probably fare better at day camps where they are allowed to return to the security of their own home and comfortable environment at the end of the day. Kids 7 and older, on the other hand, are “mature” enough (typically) for overnight and sleep-away camps. But, say experts, make sure to start slow, allowing them to go away a week at a time before committing to an entire summer of sleep-away camp. Older children or those who’ve already been away for a few weeks at a time and enjoyed it are prime candidates for this type of summer “retreat”.

How do I handle homesickness: We all get homesick, even adults, who seem to long for home and routine after just a few days or a week of being away. And, our kids are no different. In fact, according to experts it’s quite common and normal for kids to long for home and family, especially within the first few hours or days of arrival. It’s up to camp personnel to be well trained in easing their fears, concerns and anxieties, and if need be, putting them in touch with you. Parents can also help by prepping their kids BEFORE sending them off and by explaining what they can look forward to and what they can expect. And, don’t forget to accentuate the positives, and encourage your child to call and write. Also, if you’re the one feeling anxious, talk with your spouse, other camp parents and a counselor or two to help you deal with your anxieties, concerns and fears. And, always try to focus on the positives.

Choose Wisely: Don’t wait until last minute to sign your child up for camp or to look into your options. Experts suggest getting and early start and thoroughly doing your research. Ask other moms and dads about camp options and about a camp they trust. And, make sure there will be other kids in a similar age group and with similar likes that your child can bond with. Find out how long the camp has been in operation, how employees are hired and trained, what their ages and credential are, what the staff-to-camper ratio is, what the philosophy of the camp is and what activities and crafts are taught and offered. You might also want to consider a camp that’s accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA), which means they have to meet certain standards in staffing, health, safety and program quality.

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > A Campy Crowd: Sending Your Child Off To Camp

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