Q: [School-Age] How can I help my son ease his anxiety of going to summer camp? How can I ease my own anxiousness with it?
A: Going off to summer camp for a child can cause them to become real anxious – especially if they are gone for a long period of time and if it is their first time going.
So what is a parent to do if a child is having anxiety about going off to camp?
The Child Mind Institute offers these words of advice for parents who have children that are having anxiety about going to summer camp.
- Let your child feel a sense of ownership over the experience. Involve him in picking the summer camp; familiarize him with the camp environment and teach him about camp activities so he can formulate expectations.
- Help your child get excited about camp: Take her shopping for new gear and focus her on fun things about camp that she can anticipate.
- Avoid focusing on what makes children anxious. Instead of asking leading questions like, “Are you nervous about horseback riding?” ask open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling about the horses?”
- Don’t trivialize her concerns or offer glib reassurances. “There’s nothing to worry about!” or “Everyone loves camp!” may discourage your child. Instead, show that you have empathy and acknowledge her concerns.
- Reflect on your own formative experiences away from home and share positive aspects of them with your child. Show that you are willing to talk about the new things he’ll be doing, whether it’s eating new food, sleeping in a bunk bed, getting along with cabin-mates, or coexisting with insects.
- Make communication easy and accessible: Pack envelopes and stamps, outline a schedule for phone calls or emails if they’re part of the camp’s routine, and make sure your child understands how easy it will be.
- Try not to communicate your own anxiety; your child can pick up on your feelings even if you don’t verbalize them. What you want to share is your confidence in your child and the summer experience.
Going to summer camp should be seen as an adventure for a child filled with fun and excitement and it can be seen that way if parents present it that way to a child. All parents worry about their children when they go away for a long period of time, but if you follow these examples, it can be less anxiety filled for you and your child.
Stacey Mickles, is a staff member at Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC. Stacey is a graduate of the University of Alabama where she loves to give back to her community.