School Camp Anxiety – 10 Practical steps you can take to prepare your child for camp

Parent: “I’ll tell you about my first camp and the things I did.” (Tell your child a story about your camp experience and the things you were worried about as a child and ask how they would feel about it).  

“When I went to my first camp, I was worried about sleeping without my parents. It took me a little longer to sleep, but I had my favourite blanket, toy, and family photo with me. Do you think you will find sleeping in a different room difficult?” 

Son: “I didn’t think about it. Maybe.”

Parent: “What do you think you could do if this happens? Do you think taking Teddy (or any other strategy that helps your child self-regulate) with you will help?”

Keep talking about different aspects of camp until you uncover what might become a problem. Knowledge is power in this situation. You can’t prepare your child for something you don’t know. 

Practise sleepovers. Your child is more likely to feel positive about sleeping away from home if they have had success doing so in the past. Therefore, arrange sleepovers at a friend or relative’s home in the lead up to camp time and continue doing so until your child is confident in their ability to sleep well when away from home and Mum and Dad. 

Gather information. Find out as much as you can about the camp. Ask your teacher for the camp schedule, look at camp brochures or websites. Ask an older child over to your house to talk about the fun of camp. If possible, arrange a visit to the campsite before camp time. Familiarity builds confidence.  

Find a friend. Buddy your child up with a close friend, or ask your child’s teacher for help with this. Although a confident friend may suit your child, sometimes it is a child with similar concerns who may be best matched to your child. Friends are big fear beaters!   

Make packing fun. Let your child be responsible for planning, gathering and checking off items that are needed for camp. If there are things that need to be purchased, turn it into a fun shopping trip. Having your child pack their bag also ensures they know what is in it and where to find things. 

Pack something special. It may be of comfort to your child to take along a special little something: a soft toy, a photo of family or a little note written by you. Whatever may help ease the separation is perfectly fine. If needed, mention this to your child’s teacher so they are aware of what is being taken along. 

Practise independence skills at home. Build your child’s confidence in their ability to care for themselves by practising self-care skills.

For example, can they dress and undress in the clothes they will be taking to camp? Can they shower (most camps do not have baths) safely, turning the hot water on last and off first?

Can they brush and wash their hair – particularly relevant for girls with long hair! 

Talk to the teacher. If there is anything of particular concern for your child or you, talk to their teacher. It may even pay to write a little note about specific concerns or things your child would like their teacher to remember while they are at camp. Remember, teachers are very likely to have taken many children to camp in the past and are best placed to help alleviate concerns.  

Be positive. Talk about camp in a positive way. Tell your child that you think they are ready for camp – point out practical things they can do for themselves. Keep talking about the fun experiences of camp and let them know how much you are looking forward to hearing about camp when they return.  

Daniele Clarke is a registered psychologist and Founder of Superpower Kids, which provides social and emotional learning programs for kids. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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