Counselors Help Parents Prepare Kids for Summer Camp
Summer is finally drawing near, which means only a few more months until parents around the Triangle area begin preparing their children for camp. For some campers, this might be their first time being away from home for an extended period of time. To help parents who may be handling first-time-camper jitters or who simply want to ensure that their child has a positive camp experience, we asked counselors from around the area for advice. Here’s what they shared, from an “insider’s” point of view:
If my child is a first-time overnight camper, how should I prepare him or her for the experience?
“The first time a child goes to an overnight camp is always kind of hard, regardless of their age. The best thing to do is to get them really excited about camp before they go. I know a lot of parents talk about the activities their children will be able to do and go over the daily schedules (most camps provide this for the parents) so that the child will know what to expect. I would also suggest sending them with pre-addressed letters to home and to other relatives and friends, so that he or she can write to you when they are feeling homesick.” — Kristin Sadler, Camp Cheerio counselor for three years and a junior at UNC Chapel-Hill
“Depending on the length of the session, talk to your child about the importance of being independent. Talk about how many new friends they will meet! Also, go through the list of activities, talk about specific activities that your child would like to participate in, choose a few that your child does not currently do at home and make some goals. Whether it’s learning how to sail or shoot a bull’s eye at archery, the key is to make sure that your child is excited about his or her first experience at overnight camp.” — Mary Catherine Benson, YMCA of the Triangle counselor for seven years, currently marketing coordinator at Camp Seafarer and Camp Sea Gull
What are some signs that my child may not be ready for overnight camp?
“You know your child best! A camper at an overnight camp is expected to be responsible for their belongings and their actions and be comfortable living in a group environment. If your child is able to follow directions, handle basic household chores, and wants to have a fun-filled, unique experience away from home, then your child is ready! Most children, by the time they turn 7 or 8 years old, are able to have a successful and rewarding overnight camp experience.” — Mary Catherine Benson
If my child is attending an all-day camp, what are the most essential things I should be sure he or she takes to camp?
“When preparing your child for camp, remember that most summer camps involve a fair amount of outdoor play time. Campers should be dressed appropriately in play clothes and comfortable shoes. Parents should also make sure that their camper has adequate sun protection. Choose a long-lasting sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, and send it with them so they can re-apply it throughout the day.” — Alex Huffman, camp counselor at a YMCA for two years, currently a junior at N.C. State University
If I have issues with a member of my child’s camp staff, whom should I contact? How should I approach the subject?
“You should approach the camp director. A camp staff wants the best for both the campers and the counselors, so if something is not going well, they will want to be notified sooner rather than later. You could approach the camp director in person, or perhaps a phone call or an e-mail would be better depending on the situation.” — Kristin Sadler
“If you are uncomfortable addressing the staff member directly, I would suggest directing your concerns to the immediate supervisor or camp director. Be discreet so as not to embarrass the staff member in question or make your child a target of ridicule. Also be prepared to offer a reasonable solution to the problem that you would be satisfied with.” — Alex Huffman
How do camp counselors handle children who have negative attitudes or become homesick?
“Camp counselors usually take these children aside individually to talk to them, usually as early in the session as possible. Homesick children often have the most problems at night, when they are not busy and have nothing to think about but missing their homes.” — Kristin Sadler
“Each overnight camp handles situations differently, and each individual differently. Usually a negative attitude is the result of another unrelated underlying issue, for example, a child hates soccer and doesn’t want anyone else to play soccer either. … A counselor will usually sit the child down to find out why he or she is being negative. It could be as simple as not being exposed to the activity before and the child is not confident and worried about being embarrassed [or] the child is more independent and thrives doing more non-athletic activities.” — Mary Catherine Benson
Beth Thompson, an intern at Carolina Parent, spent several weeks at Camp Hollymont in Asheville, N.C., for two summers. Although she was homesick her first year at camp, the overall experience was great and she couldn’t wait to go back the next summer.