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Summer camp is worth it
June 22, 2009
by Jenni Sebora

My 9-year-old daughter just returned from her first summer camp experience. It was the perfect first-time camp excursion – a two-night, three-day camp that was just a short one and one-half-hour jaunt from home.

She has been asking – well, actually begging – to go to a camp; so when her friend, Elizabeth, asked to her to go with her to this 4-H camp, it was the perfect opportunity.

For my daughter, there was really no separation anxiety. (My husband had a harder time with it). She has never really had issues with separation. She enjoys sleep overs and is always open to new opportunities.

When we picked her up from the county extension grounds after her bus ride home from camp, she immediately informed us that she had a “blast.” Without taking a breath, she began filling our ears with talk of the various games, activities, and adventures they embarked upon, and our arms with art projects she made for each one of us.

She will certainly be ready and more than willing to go to week-long camp.

A church camp has always been part of our family’s summer experience. As a youngster myself, I attended Camp Omega in Waterville, MN, and loved it.

This is my 12-year-old son’s second year of Camp Omega summer camp. We just dropped him off and he, “as we speak,” I am sure, is having a “blast” also. He had so much fun last year that he has been talking about it all year and has greatly anticipated this week.

Three summers ago, though, was a little more difficult for him, and my husband and me. It was the first time sending one of our beloved children off to camp. It was a week long camp at Legionville. When we left him there, in strangers’ care, both my husband and I felt “homesick” for him.

We both got in the vehicle with watery eyes. We made a big deal of how much fun he was going to have and the neat people he would make. We departed with a sense of our own separation anxiety.

Now, the week was fine. We were fine; our son was fine. But we were still very thrilled to pick him up.

It is summertime, which brings many different learning and fun opportunities for children; one of those being summer camp. There certainly are a plethora of camps available.

Separation anxiety can certainly be a part of this experience both for adults and their children. In fact, studies show 95 percent of campers, even veteran ones, suffer some type of anxiety over leaving home.

What can we do to ease this?

Even though we, as parents, may also be feeling anxious, we should not show this to our children. Now, we certainly can give them a hug and tell them we love them, but we should not ramble on about how much we are going to miss them, according to www.chagad.org.

In fact, we should focus on the fun they will have, talking about the various activities they will engage in.

Also, most camps recommend sending some paper and stamps along with your camper to allow them to send letters. But most camps negate calling your camper during the week “just to talk” as that may initiate the feelings of homesickness all over again. Talk with the camp staff about the support available if separation anxiety or homesickness prevails, and relay that to your camper positively before you leave.

Send or e-mail, depending on the camp rules, cheerful notes to your camper throughout the time frame.

Allow your son or daughter to bring “a piece of home” with them. Send him with the pillow he sleeps with each night or a picture of your family.

To help your child begin the camping experience, start with one-night sleepovers at a friend’s or relative’s house. Consider a shorter camping experience, such as the camp my daughter participated in (a two-night stay).

Consider your child’s interests, personality, and needs when choosing a camp and allow your child to participate in the decision-making, childparenting.about.com suggests. Have your child help with the camp exploration process.

Before you know it, summer camp is over, and most likely your child will have learned some new skills, made some new friends, gained some self-confidence, and may be looking forward to next summer’s camp experience.