It was a beautiful summer day. My daughter Chelsea was 10 and after a week of hectic activity, we were finally ready for summer camp. I read out the items from the camp list: “Shorts? Check. T-shirts? Check. Rain gear? Check.” Everything she needed was stacked on her bed. Each piece of clothing now bore a label with her name. All of her clothing for camp was clean and folded. All Chelsea had to do now was put it in her duffel bag laid out exactly for that purpose.
Then suddenly, it hit me: She was leaving to spend two weeks with strangers. Sure, she’d had some short stints away - sleepovers with friends, a weekend Brownie camp - but this, this was different. She was ready, but was I?
One of the challenges of raising kids is knowing when to let go of them. Whether I was ready to let her go to camp was not the issue. She was ready; it was I who had to rise to the challenge. I had to be positive, excited and trusting. So I was. And the more I was positive over the next few days, the more I knew this was the right thing to do. I started remembering my own summer camp experiences and by the time my husband and I took our daughter Chelsea to the bus that would carry her off on her new adventure, I was not pretending. I was positive, excited and trusting.
Summer camp is a great experience for kids. It’s their chance to make it on their own, meet new friends, have new experiences and succeed at activities not normally offered to them. There are day camps for younger children or first-timers not yet ready to stay away overnight.
There are camps associated with clubs and organizations, specialized sports camps, academic interest camps and wilderness camps. There’s something for every interested child, but the trick is finding the right camp for your child. Match your child with the appropriate camp for them. Some children love a rugged and physically challenging experience; some hate it. Specialized camps like computer or robotics or soccer camps are too stressful for some children.
Once you have chosen a camp, be sure to attend the parent information night if it has not passed already. Talk to the staff. Ask about their camp philosophy. Ask them to walk you through a typical day at the camp. Good camp people love to talk to parents, and you can get a sense of the camp by asking questions. Trust your instincts. Does this sound right for your child? If they don’t want to talk to you, then find another camp your child will love.
Do your homework, choose the right camp and then let your child go.
Kathy is a professional speaker, broadcaster, columnist and author of Who’s In Charge Anyway? How Parents Can Teach Children to Do the Right Thing. For more information on this and Kathy’s other books, visit parentingtoday.ca.
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