How to Support A Child Who’s Nervous About Camp
January 6, 2020 by Darby Dame
All children experience a mixture of excitement and nervousness when summer camp approaches. Through your child’s eyes, summer camp is a really big deal! These feelings are completely natural reactions to new and unfamiliar experiences. We want to help you support a child who is nervous about camp.
When they say they’re feeling nervous about camp, it may not help them to hear you say, “It will be the BEST SUMMER EVER! Wait till you get there. Don’t worry, be happy!” By soothing and trying to dissuade those feelings, those feelings will not go away. Their nerves will still be there and now they might not tell you about it.
We suggest, instead, sit down and listen. Be ready to really, really listen to what they are saying. It will empower them to release any built-up emotions and start asking for help.
Try These Techniques and Ideas
A few ways you can prepare together for your first overnight experience are below. Read through our list and see which few things you might try with your son. With more resources at the bottom, we believe this list will give you some tools to support a child who’s nervous about camp.
1 – Honestly, Talk About IT
Sit down and listen. (Without multi-tasking!) Encourage your camper to think out loud and talk about their specific worries, nerves, and/or anxieties. We suggest paraphrasing what you hear them. For example, ” I hear you saying, you are worried about camp because of the bugs?” and then listen for their reply. Your camper may agree with you, she may disagree, or remain neutral.
If you have had a similar experience. maybe a time you felt overwhelmed by something new, share it with them. Share how it really felt. Did you overcome it? What did you do? This can help normalize their feelings. (We really like this article if things start spiraling)
2 – Pack Reminders from Home
Packing a reminder from home, seems like a no-brainer right? Maybe a favorite stuffed animal, a loved book, or a photo of the whole family. We suggest not just packing the item, but, talking about its importance beforehand too. Similarly, talk about it being a “little piece of home” that is there to encourage them when things get hard! A reminder “they can do it” and as they venture into the exciting world of summer camp.
3 – Small Goals
As we said before, through your child’s eyes, summer camp is a really BIG deal. Maybe even an overwhelming deal. Take one of their worries, and create a goal around it. Creating a goal can help minimize your child’s nervous about summer camp. If your child is worried about liking the new food at camp, start small. Encourage them to come up with a goal they can accomplish daily to help. They might set a goal of eating a bite of new food each meal. If your child expresses worries about making new friends, they could set a goal of saying “hi” to two new campers each day. Or a little more advanced, they can set a goal to start a card game in the cabin.
We suggest writing these down together and taping them to the inside lid of your trunk. A quick daily reminder of how to ease of few of their anxieties. To do this, you both must sit down and really talk about their feelings. What exactly is causing their nervousness about camp? (Refer back to Point 1)
4- Get Creative
When brainstorming solutions, ask your child to help think of ways to feel less anxious while they are at home and at camp. Here are a few ideas
to get you started (from imperfectfamilies.com) :
- Bring a favorite stuffed animal or trinket from home (Point 2)
- Attend a Father-Son Weekend in May
- Paint or decorate a special pillowcase
- Create a photo album to look at while at camp with encouraging sayings
- Teach and practice deep breathing
- Write a story about going to camp
- Buy a notebook and fun colored pens for journaling
- Include note cards, pre-addressed envelopes and stamps for writing home
- Pack an encouraging letter-a-day from mom or dad
- Make a list of the things he is excited to try at camp
- Roleplay meeting a new friend or asking for help
- Create a collage of your child’s best traits and skills
- Pack games and activities to share with new friends (A great idea!)
- Review things that your child has overcome in the past
- Watch our camp video and review activities they are excited to take!
5 – Call Camp and Chat!
Sleeping away from home can be a nerve-racking experience. If your camper is struggling with nerves, we ask you to reach out to us. Let’s talk about camp and its rewards and challenges. Helping support a child who is nervous about camp is one of the many ways we are here help you before and during the summer! We can even talk or video chat with your camper too.
Our office is open year-around. Monday-Friday 9 to 5 pm ET in the non-summer season. Give us a call at (828) 885-2153!
Bonus: Want More Help?
- Visit Camp – Make camp more familiar by visiting. Help spark excitement for your camp by seeing where all the fun will take place. While your child’s worries may not be completely gone, however, they will be in a better position to understand how their uncertainties can be opportunities. Schedule A Tour Here
- As a parent, sometimes it is you who isn’t quite ready for camp and that is okay. Read: “A Parent’s Guide to Their Own Camp Anxiety” and “Kidsick – Help for the First Time Camp Parent”
- We also suggest the book “Homesick & Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow” by Michael Thompson, Ph.D.
- Read The Summer Camp Handbook, a great tool for homesickness and overall summer camp prep!
- Looking for more tips on how to talk about camp? Read This Blog