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Preparing for Residential Camp

Camp Preparation Strategies For Both Parent and Child

Once your child has decided to attend summer camp there are many things you should ensure take place. As in any endeavor you undertake as a family, you will want to ensure success. Preparation will reduce anxiety for both of you and will also go a long way to making sure you both feel comfortable with the unfamiliar situation of your child being away from home.  

Most camp staff are very aware of the trepidation both the child and the parent feel about the child leaving home, often for the first time, into a completely foreign environment. In fact, the majority of camp staff were once campers themselves and understand these feelings from firsthand experience.

If you have chosen a camp, it is likely that you have a good feel for the way you were treated as an interested family or that family friends recommended that you try the camp. Throughout the rest of the preparation process remember that you chose the camp your child will be attending for good reasons and look to the camp staff as your first resource in getting ready for the experience.

There are a number of pragmatic tasks that you should worry about, but there are also things you should do to prepare your child and yourself emotionally:

  1. Review the literature the camp has sent you and be sure that you understand their policies regarding such things as homesickness and phone calls. Many camps have policies where phone calls are limited because hearing mom or dad's voice on the other end of the phone on a rainy day can often lead to a quick ride back to the city. As well, homesickness as an emotional illness is as contagious as any physical sickness and is treated with love and care by the camp staff. If a child is suffering a severe case of homesickness the first place they will call is home to seek counsel from you as a parent. By not resolving a case of homesickness, an experienced camp staff knows that it will not be long before other campers also face the same issue. It is important that you fully understand the policies of the camp so that you are working in conjunction with the staff team. By understanding the policies you will ensure that you are not promising things that the camp staff can not live up to.
  2. Provide all requested information. You want the staff to know everything you can provide about your child . This ensures that they can match campers, match staff, and are aware of the physical and emotional needs of your child. Thorough detail ensures thorough dealings.
  3. Equipment for living in the outdoors is often very different from living in an urban environment. The list of equipment you receive from the camp is bound to have items on it that you don't have. Sit down with your child and decide what equipment he/she will need and as a team determine how you will gather missing items. Remember that new equipment is only good if tested (i.e. a pair of "never worn" hiking boots can have a significantly negative impact if not broken in before a trip into the backcountry. A blister is a sure way to ensure you don't care about the beautiful elk the rest of the group is admiring on a hike.) There are often friends and relatives that can lend equipment and there are also rental companies that can accommodate some of the "higher end" equipment that your child may outgrow by the following summer.
  4. Also, label everything. The average camp counselor is often trying to keep track of eight children with a co-counselor. They also often are not aware of all the stuff that has been packed in the first place. Labeling reduces loss and also reduces anxiety when a camper has lost some equipment she will need. Labeled equipment more easily finds its owner.
  5. Finally, make sure that your child packs with you so that she is aware of what is being taken. This also establishes that the child is independent and will need to keep track of her own equipment.

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