Q: “This summer is the first year I am sending my 9 year old daughter to sleep away summer camp. She is typically shy and quiet but her best friend is going and she begged me to go! I worry that I made the wrong decision and she is going to have a bad experience. Am I being too protective?”
A: The fact that you have concerns and are worried does not make you too protective. If you were, you wouldn’t be considering sending your daughter. You can turn your worry into healthy concern by thinking about the things that will help her feel safe, comfortable, and confident, and help you feel good about your decision.
Here are some suggestions, but remember that parents know their kids best, so follow your instincts.
For children who are slow-to-warm it’s helpful if they can go with a friend who they feel comfortable with. Most children, no matter what their temperament is, will be less anxious if a friend goes with them the first time.
Talk to parents who know the camp. Find out about the staff and also if the lines of communication are good when a child is homesick or needs to connect with parents. You’ll feel better if you know she can call you if she needs to.
Talk with the director and find out about the qualifications of the counselors. Ask about emergency procedures and how they deal with children who are unhappy and also behavior problems they encounter.
Arrange for your daughter to talk with someone who has attended the camp. Help her make a list of questions to ask.
Practice “what if” scenarios. Come up with questions like, “What if someone begs you to do something you don’t want to do, like sneak out of the bunk, what will you say?” Or, “If you don’t feel well, who will you talk to.”
Ask your daughter what she wants to have with her to help her fall asleep or feel comfortable. A favorite stuffed animal can be a great nighttime pal.
Tell her that you think she will be able to take good care of herself, and that the counselors are there to help.
I suggest that children only go for a week or two the first time they go to sleep away camp.
My own experience at camp was that it was a wonderful way to connect with nature and feel independent and competent, even thought there were moments of being homesick.
Finding out about the camp program, talking with the staff, and staying attuned to your child’s needs will help you feel confident about providing this exciting experience.
Best of luck, and start planning what you’ll do with your free time.
Nurse Rona is the host of Childhood Matters radio show, a nurse for 45 years, a temperament specialist, a parent educator, and mother of four. To hear previous shows, go to www.childhoodmatters.org, and tune in Sundays 7-8AM on 98.1 KISSFM. She is also available to do Yelling Less and Temperament consultationsandworkshops at your home, school, or mother’s group.