The greatest thing about summer camp are the life skills your girl will build such as independence, learning to seek challenges, developing confidence, and building resilience. If your summer plans include sending your girl off to an overnight summer camp, here’s the scoop on how to support her mental well-being and make these new experiences work for her.
Practice Builds Confidence
If she’s never spent time away from home, make sure she has a chance to practice before she’s away for a week. Spending the night with a trusted relative or friend gives her the chance to see what it’s like to be away from you. Start small. Practice first for an overnight, then move to a full weekend. Your camp may offer shorter-term camp sessions if this is her first time away from home. Your girl should confidently be able to change clothes independently, apply sunscreen and bug spray, keep up with personal belongings, be comfortable trying new foods, and be able to sleep in a different setting other than her own bed.
Check to see if your camp offers a camp preview day or a chance to do a virtual visit prior to your first overnight camp session. Looking at pictures or videos of the camp can help demystify what her experience may be like and will give her a space to voice the things that both excite her or make her feel anxious.
Homesickness is real among first-time campers. As much as you can, keep the focus on camp and all the incredible things she will get to accomplish there. Essentially, let her lead the conversation about camp. Make sure she knows how her counselors and new camp friends will help support her if she starts feeling a little homesick. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the camp parent guide to better understand how counselors can support your child’s needs while at camp.
Help Camp Staff Get to Know Her
It is important to disclose any personal physical, mental, or developmental limitations or needs your child has on her health record with the camp so camp staff can customize the experience for her. We want every girl to feel welcome and included.
Homesickness is real among first-time campers. As much as you can, keep the focus on camp and all the incredible things she will get to accomplish there.
Get Her Ready
Help her pack, but don’t do it all for her. Make sure she’s involved and picks out some favorite clothes to bring, and that she knows where everything goes in her overnight bag. This will help her feel both a sense of ownership over the process and a sense of security in knowing what she’s got and where it all is. Know the rules about what she can and cannot have at camp—and follow them! Many camps don’t allow girls to bring technology (including cell phones and tablets), and that’s a good thing! Trust us, it’s a lot easier for your girl to grow in confidence, strength, and independence when she’s not calling, texting or gaming every day. And in the case of a real serious need? The staff at her camp will connect the two of you via phone or in some other way.
Send Her Off With a Smile
Let’s get one thing straight: Anxious parents = anxious campers. While it’s true that some children are nervous to go to summer camp, your attitude about summer camp has a huge influence over how she’ll view the whole endeavor. If you’re excited and play up all the great experiences she’ll have at camp without even mentioning feeling nervous or getting homesick, she’s a lot more likely to feel happy and confident at camp from day one.
Make Homecoming Sweet
Your girl will have a newfound freedom when she comes home—she’s lived a week of independence and making choices on her own. She might miss camp and all the friends she met there. She also might be frustrated to have to start doing her chores again and have a little trouble getting back in the swing of things in general. So be patient and give her a little bit of space as she transitions back to her normal life. On the flipside, there is a chance she’ll be eager to put camp behind her and get back to her everyday activities and her neighborhood friends. However she feels, just remember that this is a time of adjustment for her and that she might need a day or two to rest after coming home (there’s a good chance she didn’t sleep as much as she should have!).
Finally, celebrate the fact that your girl has had tons of new experiences and that she’s probably grown and changed a bit as a person since she left for camp. Ask her about what she tried that was new, what challenged her, what she learned about herself, and what she looks forward to most out of her next experience. Half the fun of going away and having new adventures is coming back home and sharing them with the ones we love.
To learn more about camp offerings for girls through Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, please visit gsnetx.org/camp or give us a ring at 972/349-2400.
Promoted content sponsored by Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas.
Read the Girl Scouts related article: 7 Ways Summer Camp Brings Out Her Best