Helping Anxious Kids Enjoy Camp
Spending your summer at camp can seem scary, especially for kids with heightened anxiety. However, at WeHaKee Camp for Girls, we try to alleviate as much anxiety as we can from our campers. With the help of our dedicated, well-trained staff, we found that the anxiety kids feel will quickly start to melt away as they become more comfortable in this new environment.
ChildMind.org came out with a great article explaining how you can lessen your child’s anxiety before leaving for camp, making them more prepared and excited for their fun summer getaway. Here are some quick tips that can easily be incorporated into the days leading up to departure for camp:
- Help your child get excited about camp: Take her shopping for new gear and focus her on fun things about camp that she can anticipate.
- Avoid focusing on what makes children anxious. Instead of asking leading questions like, “Are you nervous about horseback riding?” ask open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling about the horses?”
- Don’t trivialize her concerns or offer glib reassurances. “There’s nothing to worry about!” or “Everyone loves camp!” may discourage your child.
- Focus on concrete details in conversations leading up to and during summer camp. Avoid abstract issues like what it it’s like to be away from home in favor of cabin details, meals in the lodge, or campfire rituals.
- Reflect on your own formative experiences away from home and share positive aspects of them with your child. Show that you are willing to talk about the new things he’ll be doing, whether it’s eating new food, sleeping in a bunkbed, getting along with cabin-mates, or coexisting with insects.
- Go through “rehearsals.” A shorter-term sleepover or a night at Grandma’s will make it easier for your child to be away from home.
- Don’t linger at the bus stop. Keep the goodbyes short, as delaying just causes more mixed feelings.
- Make communication easy and accessible: Pack envelopes and stamps, outline a schedule for phone calls or emails if they’re part of the camp’s routine, and make sure your child understands how easy it will be.
- Have goals for each letter or conversation, so your child will come away focused on how she is adjusting, rather than on how much she wants to come home.
- Try not to communicate your own anxiety; your child can pick up on your feelings even if you don’t verbalize them. What you want to share is your confidence in your child and the summer experience.
- Help your child formulate realistic, goal-oriented plans for making friends or toasting the perfect marshmallow or passing a swimming test. The thrill of completing these plans can give your child a feeling of success and take his mind off his anxiety.
- If your child has psychiatric or learning issues, don’t keep them a secret. Make sure the staff and counselors know anything they need to know to head off problems and maximize her experience. Does she wet the bed? Is she anxious about water? And let your child know that counselors are there to support her, whether she has a simple question or a larger problem.
With these easy to apply tips, your child is sure to look forward to summer camp and all of the amazing opportunities ahead of them this summer. Thank you for reading and enjoy your week!