In this guide, we will discuss “How to not be nervous for camp” and also we will discuss some tips on how to help your kid to overcome their fear of going to camp, especially if it is the first time. Additionally, there are some tips for parents that fear sending their kids to summer camp on the premise that ‘something might happen’ and they are not going to be present. Let your child take ownership of their experience, decisions and choices.
How to not be nervous for camp
If you wonder ‘How to not be nervous for camp’ it is because it may be your first time going to summer camp. I remember my first summer camp and yes, I was also very nervous about going and staying away from home with a bunch of strangers. However, it was the best experience ever, I had so much fun. I got to make new friends, get out of my comfort zone and play a lot. I specifically remember in my mind, very clear as if it was yesterday, how I played with kids my age by the river. We had the craziest of the games and we all had so much fun.
Initially, I was very reluctant to go but my mom convinced me to give it a try and if I didn’t feel right then she would go and pick me up. So we did and after the second day, I didn’t even want to talk to her because I was so busy playing and telling stories around the campfire.
Anxiety can become very serious if it starts ‘telling’ us what to do and especially, if we stop doing things or going places because we are too afraid. I was so afraid of being away that I didn’t even consider the possibility of liking the place, the people, the activities, I just loved everything about it.
Can I learn something in summer camp?
I realized how good summer camp was to help me develop many skills that were useful in future settings and situations. For instance, in summer camp kids can learn to be resilient, independent and have certain social skills. Camp activities have a clear purpose and most of them help kids build their confidence and self-esteem. But you may be wondering, when is a child ready to go to summer camp. Some people believe that it is common to send kids to summer camp around the ages of 10 to 12 but some kids may be ready since the age of 6 depending on their temperament and experience.
If your child is feeling the pre-camp nerves, the best thing to do is sit down and have a conversation about it. Acknowledge their feelings and help them find strategies and tools to overcome anxiety.
Let your child feel in control
If your child feels they control or ‘own’ the experience by letting them make their own decisions and set realistic expectations about summer camp. They may have a lot of questions so make sure he/she stays informed about what is expected of them and what summer camp is really about. Let them know they will still be able to get in touch if they are not feeling well or if they need anything to make the experience memorable.
However, consider that even though we need to make communication accessible, the camp may have a schedule for phone calls or emails as part of their camp’s routine. You may let them take their cell phone but if they arrive and there is no reception they could start to panic. Set the appropriate expectations.
Encourage your child to be excited
If you present camp as something monotonous and boring your child wouldn’t want to go but if you present it as something appealing and exciting it will spark their interest and they will consider going. Additionally, you could show them some pictures if you have any available and even take them to shop for new gear.
Ask them open-ended questions
Many children will fear certain camp activities like horse riding or swimming. Instead of asking leading questions that focus on what makes them anxious, try using open ended questions. Additionally, if they have concerns avoid making them feel as if they were insignificant or trivial. Don’t say things like ‘I am sure everything will be fine, don’t worry about it’ or ‘You will love summer camp, everyone does’.
Remember, every child is different and just because you enjoyed it as a child doesn’t mean they have to enjoy it as well, it is a conscious decision. These types of statements may discourage your child and will make them feel like you don’t really care about their concerns. However, you could talk about the positive aspects of having experiences away from home. Show you are willing to listen to all of their experiences, thoughts and adventures during camp.
Try not to transfer your anxiety to your child
As parents it is just normal to worry and if it is the first time your child is away from home, even more so. But avoid transfering your own anxiety to your child by saying things like ‘Be very careful, don’t want you getting hurt’ or ‘try not to engage in activities that seem too harsh’. Instead, talk with confidence about camp and the possibility of having a lot of positive experiences.
What if my child has a psychiatric or learning disability?
Having a psychiatric condition or learning disability doesn’t mean your child won’t be able to go to camp or that you need to keep it a secret from the camp staff so they won’t discriminate against your child or put him/her into the spotlight. In fact, as indicated by childmind.org:
“ If your child has psychiatric or learning issues, don’t keep them a secret. Make sure the staff and counselors know anything they need to know to head off problems and maximize her experience. Does she wet the bed? Is she anxious about water? And let your child know that counselors are there to support her, whether she has a simple question or a larger problem.”
Should I believe if my child says he/she is ready for camp?
If they say they are ready, trust them but the real question is, are you ready to let your child go to camp? You are afraid of how they will behave while they are away or if they will actually enjoy the experience. This is not something you can control, what you can do is wait and let them live those situations on their own. You may think ‘but what if he doesn’t like the taste of the food or the menu’ well, it is unlikely that the staff will let your child starve so don’t worry too much about this.
We understand how some parents wish they could go with their children but letting them have a bit of independence and make their own decisions is actually beneficial for them. However, if you notice that your child’s reaction to camp is severe and it is interfering with their daily activities then, consider consulting a mental health professional for advice.
Why is this blog about How to not be nervous for camp important?
As we have discussed on ‘how to not be nervous for camp’ there are two sides of the coin, concerned kids and their concerned parents. Being nervous either way is completely normal, if your kid is not used to being away from home or you are not used to letting them stay in other places then the idea can become overwhelming.
However, as parents we need to let our kids make their own decisions, make mistakes and live their own lives. We can worry and be there to support them if needed but without intervening too much. But remember, if anxiety is too overwhelming and your kid’s normal functioning is affected, consider getting advice from a mental health professional.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to not be nervous for camp
How do you survive sleepaway camp?
If you would like to survive sleepaway camp, here are some useful tips:
– Talk and connect with other campers in your area.
– Share stories, memories and experiences related to camp.
– Male a list of your main goals.
– Try to go camping with your family.
What do you do when your child hates camp?
If your child hates camp, remind them it is just temporary and being homesick is completely normal since even counsellors and staff members also get to feel this way. If you went to summer camp, to share your experience with your child. If you loved camp when you were little, make sure to sound enthusiastic so they consider giving it a try.
How can I be cool at sleepaway camp?
If you would like to be cool at sleepaway camp, here are some tips:
– Try to say ‘Hello’ to other campers. This will let them know you are welcoming and friendly.
– Be genuine. Don’t pretend to be something or someone you are not because they will notice you are lying sooner or later.
– Ask open-ended questions so people can give you details and keep a conversation.
– Engage in fun activities.
How do you pack for summer camp?
If you would like to pack for summer camp, here are some tips on what to bring with you:
– A reusable water bottle so you can remain hydrated.
– Headphones or earbuds so you can listen to your favourite music.
– Comfortable clothes and shoes. Pack at least a pair of tennis.
– A jacket or sweatshirt in case you feel cold.
– A bathing suit, sunscreen, a towel and flip flops.
– Some spending money if you’d like to buy something.
– Mosquito repellents.
What is the best age for sleepaway camp?
The best age for sleepaway camp is between 7-9 years old but it depends on the child, some would like to wait to be older so they can go to summer camp. Others who are much younger may believe they are ready to go. However, as a parent you need to consider (from what you have observed) if your kid is ready to stay away from home at sleepaway camp.
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Childmind.org: “13 Tips for Helping Anxious Kids Enjoy Summer Camp”