Over the course of the last several months, you have taken every step to ensure your child or teen will be prepared for their summer. You have identified the camps, programs, or other experiences and completed all forms. You have made doctors’ appointments and haircuts, acquired visas, filled out health forms & camper/student profiles, and arranged transportation to ensure that everything will proceed without a hiccup. You have taken the steps to set your child or teen up for success, and now it’s time to use these last few weeks to emotionally prepare them for the summer ahead. This, however, is easier said than done – so here are some tips to help you and your child or teen emotionally prepare for the summer ahead.
Get to Know Camp
This is particularly important if your child will be going to camp for the first time this summer. Make sure you spend some time on the camp’s website with your child, paying specific attention to the images of camp and camp life. Spending some time looking at images of the camp they will be attending, and reviewing the daily schedule and various events, will provide your child with a degree of familiarity that will help ease their transition into the unknown world of camp and mitigate some of their (very natural) anxiety. If possible, try to have them Facetime or Skype with a Director or Assistant Director so they can ID a friendly face when they arrive.
Make Packing A Team Exercise
Chances are, you can pack your child’s camp trunks much more efficiently and practically without their distracted assistance. But packing with your child will provide another avenue to familiarize them with camp and camp life, and to help ease their transition into the summer. This will give you an opportunity to talk about the various camp activities and life away from home – “Can you hand me your swim trunks? You’re going to get to go swimming every day in the lake this summer, I’m so jealous!” Packing together has another benefit as well – putting the items into the bag with your child will make him or her feel like they are part of the process of preparing for camp, and will help them feel invested in their upcoming summer.
Set A Strong Example
You are going to miss your child, and your child will miss you – this is a simple fact, and part of the growth experience that is summer camp. However, if you continually tell your child how much you are going to miss him or her while they are at camp, this can emotionally burden them, and may make their transition to camp life that much more difficult. It is challenging enough to be a child missing home, but when this is compounded because they feel responsible for making their parents sad, it can be a lot to overcome. Talk to your child about how much fun camp will be, and try not to dwell on how much you’ll be missing them while they’re gone (especially to them).
Hand Over the Suitcase
Embarking on a teen program or similar experience this summer, either domestic or abroad, will likely be one of your teen’s more independent experiences to date. You can foster this independence, and their investment in their upcoming summer, by allowing them to pack for themselves. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t check in on the process – it’s always vital to make sure they have enough underwear, socks and a good raincoat – but by allowing them to be responsible for their packing, you will empower them to take ownership of their summer experience and make the most of the program they attend. You’ll also avoid becoming the scape goat if they forget to pack something important, or pack too much.
Crash Course in Culture
If your child is traveling abroad for the summer, they should be aware of any key cultural differences they may encounter during their program. For example, unless you have a food allergy, asking for changes to the menu is culturally taboo in much of Europe. Similarly, in Peru it is rude to take pictures of people without their permission, and in Argentina the “thumbs up” is considered an insult. Make sure your teen knows the cultural do’s and don’ts of traveling abroad before they make the trek, so they can transition more seamlessly and avoid awkward situations.
As a parent, you should absolutely take advantage of the hours that are freed when your child or teen is away for the summer. Go to the spa, eat out on a weekday, or take an adult vacation (wine country awaits). If you’ve still got little ones around the house, use the opportunity to spend a little extra time with them, because before you know it, the house will be full once again.
Take A Tech Break
Many camps and teen programs are entirely tech free for campers or participants. Take a page from their book – don’t spend your summer glued to your screen looking for updates on their current program. It’s always fun to look through camp/program photos or blog posts, but try to avoid spending countless hours scrolling through the websites looking for pictures of your child or teen, and when you do look at pictures, fight the urge to infer their current overall happiness level from their expression in a single photo.
It’s okay to reach out to a program or camp director for updates now and again, and they’ll generally be happy to touch base. But remember that no news is generally good news, and the directors will be busy running and overseeing your child/teen’s experience. If you’re constantly trying to get in touch, you’ll be interfering with the bandwidth they’d otherwise be spending actually running the camp or program.
Soon enough the summer will be over, and it will be time for school once again. Make the most of your child or teen’s summer experience by allowing them to enjoy it. If you take these simple steps to prepare – and then trust that the camp or program you so carefully selected will do what’s best for your child or teen – you will find that everyone is better off for it. Set your kids up for success, and enjoy the time they’re away –it will be that much sweeter when your child or teen returns.