Despite the lingering snow, summer is not far away. As days get longer and temperatures climb, the time will come for children of all ages to embark upon the exciting adventure of heading off to summer camp.
Thinking about a day camp experience for your child, but concerned about separation anxiety? Worrying about how your son or daughter will adjust to a new setting? You are not alone. This practical and straightforward advice from day camp experts will ease your mind and help you both make a smooth transition.
Ruth Goodman, a social worker at Mount Kisco Child Care Center, assures parents that separation anxiety tends to be short lived. “Summer camp is often longer than a school day,” she reminds parents. “Camp counselors should expect such a reaction, and should welcome the camper with warmth and a song or other opening activity to assist the parent in saying a quick and confident goodbye.”
“Parents worry because kids worry,” states Gina Zohar, director of the “Little Cavs” program at the Harvey School. “Go over the schedule the day before. Let them know what to expect for lunch. Who will be picking them up that day? Let them know.”
The director of World Cup Nursery School and Kindergarten, Roxanne Kaplan, mentioned that children are very perceptive, and will pick up on the fact that a parent is worried. “As parents, it is important to keep your emotions in check. I know that it is often easier said than done, but when you are feeling worried, try to remember all the reasons why you chose the camp.”
“Even if you are nervous as a parent, do your best to show your child how confident you are that he or she will have a great experience at camp,” advises Gordon Josey, owner and director of Breezemont Day Camp. Parents should address issues they might be worried about with the camp to alleviate their concerns, but at a time the child is not around.
Zohar tells parents they have 24/7 access to her. As a parent, teacher, and camp director, she understands the situation from all points of view and stresses the importance of communicating. “I love what I do, and love talking with parents and grandparents. [Camp] is a big deal. We want them to love it!”
- Visit the camp ahead of time to have a sense of what your child should expect.
- Give your child a photo or comfort item to hold onto during the day.
- Keep goodbyes “short and sweet,” and less painful.
- Go over the schedule the day before. For example, will there be art, skating, swimming, etc.
- Check in with the camp during the day if you have concerns about your child’s adjustment.
- Empathize with your child, listening to their concerns, but redirect them to the positive aspects of the camp.
Finally, take heart. In Kaplan’s experience, “Ninety nine percent of the time, when you call to check in on your camper, you will find out that the tears were very short lived.”
Eileen Gallagher is a regular contributor to both the print and online editions of The Inside Press (www.theinsidepress.com). Her children attended summer day camps and enjoyed them so much, they went on to become counselors.
PUBLISHER’S Note: A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO ALL OUR CAMP SPONSORS FOR THEIR EXPERT ADVICE IN THIS FEATURE.