Q: Our 9-year-old son wants to attend overnight camp this summer. How can we be certain he is ready, and what can we do to prepare?
A: This time of year, I get a lot of questions about summer camps and the MCAS tests. Let’s start with camps! Nine is a perfect age for most children to attend overnight camp. Before sending them off, consider the following tips:
Good fit: Both you and your son should be comfortable with the camp you choose. Look for a camp with a strong reputation and a responsive staff who will answer your questions in advance about the camp’s schedule and overall experience. Then review the information together and pick the best “fit” camp. It’s best to start with a one-to-two-week camp.
Trial run: Have your son stay with a friend for a weekend and agree to have no contact. See how he fares while away.
Life skills: Review skills such as self-care and managing belongings. Talk about feelings and fears on topics from individual and group chores to abiding by rules. Remind your son that it’s natural to be homesick and it’ll probably only last a few days, especially when he remembers how much fun he’ll be having! If he’s anxious, encourage him to talk with a staff member.
“What if” scenarios: Reviewing scenarios like, “What if you lose your hat?” or “What if you don’t like everyone in your cabin?” is good preparation. As your son responds to various situations, he’ll develop an independence and confidence that he’ll bring home.
Your schedule: Let him know exactly when you’ll pick him up. Set guidelines for how much and what type of communication you’ll have while he is away. Let him know you’ll reach him if you need to, then mail handwritten letters (remember those?) to him in advance so they’ll be waiting for him when he arrives.