How to help reassure an anxious camper
Not all children step into the life of a camper with ease. Anxiety effects so many children, and it can be difficult to know how to support that anxious child, and helping them to reduce their nerves and enjoy summer camp. For many it is the first time they have been away from their parents, and that in itself can be a very daunting experience.
Below are some suggestions on how to ease pre-camp nerves.
- Our first tip is to speak to your child to help understand just what is making them feel anxious. Is it separation anxiety, fear of the unknown, or simply that they will miss their friends and the usual surroundings.
- A good way to start is to let your child have a role is choosing which camp to attend. Maybe even take a trip there on an open house day to familiarize the child with the setting, procedures and staff.
- Avoid focusing on what makes children anxious. Instead of asking questions like, “Are you nervous about water sports?” ask open-ended questions like, “How do you feel about doing some water sports?”
- Support your child and their concerns, don’t brush them off by saying things like “don’t be silly, you will be fine”, or “I don’t know why you are so scared”.
- Talk them through what happens on an average day at camp, what the facilities will be like, what the meals will be like etc. Having prior knowledge of what to expect in situations like this is a good thing.
- Tell your child about your experience of camp when you were a child. Throw in a few funny tales to keep them interested and to make them think of fun times that they will have when they are at camp.
- If your child has never stayed away from home before, try testing out a sleepover at a Grandparents or a friends house. That way they will get a taste of what it is like to sleep somewhere other than home.
- Say your proper goodbyes at home – don’t make the processes of saying goodbye at the bus stop a lingering one. It will only make your little camper more reluctant to step on that bus.
- Try and not be anxious yourself for your child – they will sense this. You have been to camp, you know it is a fantastic experience so there is no need for you as a parent to feel anxious.
- Make sure the camp staff know in advance of any learning issues, night terrors, bed wetting etc. The counsellors will then be best equipped to support your child.
Finally, make sure that you as a parent have packed all of the essentials on the pack list. The last thing that your camper needs is to discover that swimwear or toothbrush is missing at the other end. That will only add to the anxiety of being away from home.
And, relax – your camper will be just fine. You can rest assured that they will be having the time of their lives.