first time campers

First-time Campers: Sending a child away to summer camp or a summer program for the first time is a major milestone for most families, one that is often marked by excitement, anticipation and perhaps even some anxiety. However, when children are taking positive risks in a safe and nurturing camp environment, they have little time to miss home and a lot of time dedicated to fun, growing, and learning.

Prepare your child for the time of his life at summer camp with the following tips from camp and summer program professionals and child development experts.

Talk to Your Child Before Camp.  “Learning about the camp experience ahead of time allows you to create positive expectations. Also, talking with your child about these kinds of issues is a great way to show support as your child gets ready to take this important step on the road to being more resilient and self-reliant. For you as a parent, it can give you more peace of mind as you allow your child to participate safely in a broader world.” Peg L. Smith, ACA CEO

Prepare children for issues that come up so they know what to do in your absence.  “Share with your child that everyone has good days and bad days, and if they are having a problem, their counselor is there to help them. Make sure they understand that if the counselor doesn’t know what might be troubling them, she can’t help. Ask your child to be honest and to ask for what they need.” Bob Ditter, family therapist

“Encourage your child’s independence throughout the year. Practice separations, such as sleepovers at a friend’s or grandma’s house, which can simulate the camp environment.” Peg L. Smith, ACA CEO

Make new friends at camp.  “If your child is shy about meeting new kids, encourage them to get to know others by being a good listener. Also, remind them that not everyone in the cabin, bunk, or group has to be their friend, and they don’t have to be everyone else’s friend, as long as they treat one another with respect.” Bob Ditter, family therapist

Homesickness can be prevented.  “Tell your child that some feelings of homesickness are normal! When children arrive at camp with a repertoire of coping strategies and some practice time away from home under their belts, they are ready for those normal feelings of homesickness. Keep in mind that only seven percent of homesickness cases are severe.” Ann Sheets, ACA President

Reprinted courtesy of the American Camp Association. The ACA works to preserve, promote, and enhance the camp experience for children and adults. ACA-Accredited camp programs ensure that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. For more information, visit www.ACAcamps.org.


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