Preparing shy kids for summer camp
With a range of exciting summer camps on the table for your little one, let’s look at how best to prepare them and to allay any worries they may have.
Summer camps can be the highlight of the year for many kids. These memorable trips are spent playing games, trying out new sports, making friends and much more. However, that’s not every child’s idea of a dream summer. For some little ones, the thought of spending time away from their family (even if they return home each evening) can be too much. Facing countless other children that they don’t know can be a daunting prospect. While it’s natural for kids to be nervous in the lead up to a summer camp, others may feel overwhelmed with anxiety.
TIPS TO PREPARE YOUR CHILD FOR CAMP
Summer camps can be an extremely important and formative experience for children. It’s a place for them to practise lots of great skills, including socialising and becoming comfortable with independence. Many activities that take place at a summer camp enable children to express themselves among their peers and are often a chance to try their hand at a sport or a hobby that they may not have had the opportunity to sample before. It’s a fantastic setting for your child to learn and to grow, particularly if they have a more anxious disposition. So, here are a few pointers to help kids prepare for summer camp and to get the most out of it!
Involve your child
One of the scariest aspects of summer camps, for a child, is the sense of unknown. To counteract this, try to include them in as much of the planning process as possible. Not only will this help to calm their anxiety because they’ll be more aware of where they’re going, it will also make sure that kids go to a summer camp they’re actually interested in. If your little one is involved in the selection process, summer camp is much more likely to be a positive experience.
Let’s get excited!
Once a specific camp is picked, sit down with your child and talk to them about the various activities that will be available to them. Aim to be as positive as possible, by saying things like, “Just think how much fun it will be to try out dance class”, or, “Imagine how cool it’s going to be to learn to play the drums!” Summer camp should be a big adventure, a place for your little one to have experiences that they normally don’t have access to. Once kids get excited, their fears will begin to melt away.
Anxiety or anticipation
All of us experience a fascinating psychological phenomenon where our brains react in the same way to anxiety and to excitement. Our minds aren’t actually sure whether we’re nervous or excited and will default to our most common response. If your child often gets anxious, then even when they feel excitement, they may perceive it as nervousness. One way to help your child through this is to teach them to ask themselves “Am I really nervous or am I just excited?” Pausing to consider this can calm your child and help them to self-manage their feelings, so they don’t get overwhelmed.
Hear them out
Even if you feel that your child has nothing to be afraid of when going to summer camp, make sure to listen to their fears. If we simply brush it off, telling them not to worry about it, or that everything is going to be fine, children may not feel heard. It may appear like we, as parents, don’t understand what they’re feeling. So give them space to talk about any concerns they harbour and start a gentle conversation about these issues.
Honesty and optimism
If your little one finds it hard to make friends, it doesn’t make sense to tell them that the social aspect of summer camp will be easy. Being honest, yet optimistic, can be a much stronger approach in these cases. Acknowledge that it may be difficult at times with so many other children and the pressures that come along with that, but remain positive that they can pick one person to try to become friends with. Set small, realistic goals and empower your child to achieve them.
One great way to take the initial fear out of summer camp is to do a trial run. Arrange with some other parents from school to send your children on a playdate to try out a new activity. It’s even better if these children are also going to the summer camp. Kids will get a sense of being in an unfamiliar place with others, taking some of the unknown out of going to a camp.
Don’t make a big deal out of the goodbye
Saying goodbye before heading off to camp can be one of the hardest parts for your child. If they’re afraid of what’s to come, they may not want to leave and they will probably try to make the goodbye last as long as possible! As difficult as it is, it’s important to keep the goodbye relatively short, while making sure that your little one feels safe and loved. Encourage them to take it one day at a time and remind them that you’ll see them right after camp is finished.
Make communication easy
Many kids are put at ease simply by knowing that they can contact their parents, if absolutely necessary. Reach out to the camp organisers to find out what the possible methods of communication are and pass these on to your child. They should only get in touch if they really need to, but the fact that the option is there will dismantle some of the fear immediately.
OUR ROLE AS PARENTS
It’s not just our children that are anxious in the face of summer camp. Lots of parents worry about sending their child into the unknown and wonder how well they’ll cope. There are a couple of things to bear in mind when facing these natural fears.
Every child is unique
One thing that many parents struggle with is accepting that their child may have quite a different disposition to them. Some extroverted parents, who find socialising straightforward, have socially-anxious, introverted children. Similarly, some introverted parents may have a child who thrives in social situations and loves putting themselves out there.
It can be a challenge to try to see things from our little one’s perspective, but it’s essential. They’re the ones going to summer camp after all. Whether we would love it, or fear the very thought of it, shouldn’t influence how kids feel. So while encouraging your child to be as balanced as possible, remember that they have their own unique personality!
It goes without saying that summer camp can be an important part of your child’s development. What must also be recognised is that children progress at different rates. Some children may be ready for summer camp from a very young age, whereas others may need another year or two before it’s a suitable option for them. Don’t rush them into it with a sink or swim mentality. Their time will come and they’ll reap all of the benefits of camp.
A SUMMER TO REMEMBER
Summer camp is an amazing chance for your child to make new friends, learn new skills and generally have a blast. Using these tips to help them overcome their fears, you’ll be able to set them up for their best summer yet!