Lots of kids love sleepaway camp. But how do you know when your child is ready for camp?

Generally, children are ready for an overnight camp between 8-10 years of age. Parents know their children best and should know if they are mature enough to handle it. A shorter, “trial” camp is often a good route for first-time campers.

Some indicators that your child may be ready:

  • He can get himself dressed, teeth and hair brushed and show some independence during daily routines
  • She has had a successful sleepover at a friend’s house
  • Your child is able to verbalize concerns to an adult comfortably

Benefits of summer camps

  • Provide opportunities to develop maturity and independence
  • Promote flexibility, problem solving and social skills (in a fun setting)
  • Specialty camps – for specific sports, interests or children with specific diseases – offer a way for kids to gain new skills with kids who have similar interests.

Talk with your child about camp

Include him in the decision-making process to find a camp that’s right. Schedule a tour of the camp ahead of time if you can.

Another tip is to talk with your child about specific scenarios and how to handle them. What if she doesn’t like the food one day? Or if she’s feeling sick? Counselors are trained to handle these situations so encourage them to confide in a camp counselor.

Manage your own expectations – and emotions!

Many children have a great time at camp and often forget to call or write home every day. And if they do, you should be prepared to hear a range of emotions. If your child is upset, be supportive – but don’t give him an easy out to come home. Everyone has bad days, and learning to cope with them is part of the experience.

Telling your child that you have confidence in them to succeed at camp is also important. Also, kids pick up on adults’ social cues, so if you’re anxious about camp, try not to show it!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maureen MonaghanMaureen Monaghan, PhD, is a clinical and pediatric psychologist with specialization in child and adolescent adjustment to illness and adherence to medical regimens.

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