May 2019

Page 17


Preparing Our Kids (and Ourselves) for Summer Camp(s)


h, summer is around the corner and, you know what that means…either we need to get on inventing some new ways to keep our kids occupied and get their energy out for weeks on end, or find a summer camp(s) that provides wholesome, fun activities that -- who knows? -- may even be utilizable in the future.

integrate the kids/yourself to the idea of overnight camp by starting with day camp. This will make leaving home for camp much less intimidating.

buddy being with them from the get-go.

Another way to prepare the family for camp is to discuss what’s to come in terms of accommodations, food, attire and activities. Another important way to prepare your child/ Pack their gear together (including maybe teen for camp is to talk to them about it in some paper/notecards, envelopes and stamps advance. Let them be part of choosing a camp old-school snail mail style), and discuss a For many families, sending the kids to summer that excites them and that they think they will schedule for the various methods you may camp isn’t as simple as swiping a credit card enjoy and find enriching. Listen and validate communicate with one another while they’re and driving/flying them off to “Camp Thank their feelings of anxiety, letting them know away. Encourage your kiddo to let you know You for a Real Vacation at last for Mom and homesickness and being sad while missing both the positive and negative stuff about Dad too.” Many kids have never been away home is common/normal. Reflect and offer camp, and assure them that they can tolerate from home for days, let alone, weeks without them your insights from childhood experiences and express unpleasant feelings such as their parents/caregivers, and while super away from home, discussing how you may sadness or anger, as well as pleasant ones exciting, it isn’t always the most seamless have also missed your family at times while such as joy or excitement. And when you transition for them (or us). The best treatment attending summer camp or otherwise away, respond while they’re away, you may mention for anxiety (including separation or social but it was totally worth it because of all the briefly about how you miss them, but overall anxiety) is exposure, so you want to build up cool adventures you had and friends you met keep it light and upbeat, and don’t forget to your kiddos’ (and your own) confidence that that taught you so much and created lifelong mention you’re proud of them, love them and the entire family can handle a long sleepaway memories you’ll always cherish. Speaking of are excited to hear all about their camp camp in advance by first having them stay the friends, consider making it easier on your kid experience. night with a friend or for several days at their (and yourself) by tag-teaming camping with grandparents’ or uncle/aunt’s home without other families and registering your kids When you drop off your child, meet and you. After all, practice makes perfect. Perhaps together, so they have the safety net of their introduce them to at least their main points of

contact (i.e. counselors, teachers, coaches, staff…) who are all eager to make their time at camp amazingly fun and rewarding. As with school drop-offs, make the good byes as short, sweet and natural as possible, as you are confident they (and you) can handle this time away from each other. Long, emotional goodbyes can only add to a difficult transition, separation anxiety with reluctance to be away from one another. Legendary coach John Wooden said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” If you follow the steps above and work this plan, your kids (and in turn you) are sure to have a much more epic, unforgettable summer camp experience. You might just have to beg them to leave camp to come home. j Raj Loungani, MD, MPH Board-Certified Child/Adolescent & Adult Psychiatrist Founder/President of Enhance Psych, Inc. 904-473-4963

MAY 2019 • • Page 17