Remember that kids often get over the adjustment to a new environment before parents get used to the next stage of development. While your child is adjusting to camp, don't make pick-up deals and offer to rescue your child. Instead, offer positive encouragement that you know he or she will have a successful summer. "It is important for parents not to transfer any of their own anxieties to their children, creating unnecessary stress for the camper. If parents have worries, they should speak privately with the directors," says David Fleischner, owner and director of Camp Scatico, a Brother-Sister resident camp in the upper Hudson Valley.
Don't focus too much on correspondence from camp in the first few days your child is away. If you receive a discouraging phone call or a letter from your camper, remember that like any new experience, adjusting to camp may take a few days and that severe homesickness is rare. Remind your child of all the wonderful aspects of camp. "In every letter that I wrote to my son, I always encouraged him to try new things and always told him how proud we all were of him," says De Stefano.
When your child is at camp, allow him to solve his own problems or ask a counselor for help. Camp is a setting that allows your child to experience the real world in a safe environment. Kids learn quickly to rely upon themselves and the camp staff they trust at camp instead of their parents. And "the more parents feel that their children are ready for the sleepaway experience, the less anxious they'll feel," notes Fleischner. "So make sure they've slept away from home successfully, either at a grandparent, cousin, or friends' home."
"Allowing your child to take healthy risks in a nurturing environment is one of the greatest things you can do for your child," says Adam Weinstein, executive director of the American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey. "Parents who did their research and asked questions when searching for a camp will feel more comfortable when camp begins and be thrilled to watch how their child thrives in the camp community."
To find the right camp for your child, visit the American Camp Association (ACA) of New York and New Jersey's camp database (www.campwizard.org), or call (800) 777-CAMP to speak with a specialist for free, one-on-one advice. ACA-accreditation ensures that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities in a safe environment.