Adequately preparing your teen for their first camp often means the difference between a successful adventure and a miserable time where your teen is wishing the minutes away. Here we look at some tips to help your teen have the best summer ever!
Start Planning Now
It's officially spring now and the perfect time for your teen to start planning their summer experiences. Summer camp experiences involve a wide range of options and activities, and teens should seek out summer camps that align with their interests. It’s particularly important for teens to keep an open mind and consider options they may have never explored in the past. If your teen hasn’t chosen a summer camp yet, browse TeenLife’s Guide to Summer Programs for ideas.
Make Sure Your Teen Has a Realistic View
The thought of escaping parental nagging, combined with visions of hanging around doing very little and late-night festivities, probably feature heavily in most teens’ minds when facing the exciting prospect of being away from home for the first time. However, it is important that they are given a full picture of what life at camp is going to be like, including the more mundane, every-day realities, and negative aspects.
Although you don’t want to put a damper on things, it is important you are realistic and explain that it will not be a laugh-a-minute, 24-hour party; as with every aspect of life, your teen needs to be aware that there will be times when they are home-sick, miserable, or just bored. They should also know that summer camp is not a glorified holiday, and that it invariably revolves around team work; this means pulling their weight, which often comes as a nasty shock to an unprepared teen!
Make sure that your teen is fully aware of what is expected of them; read the summer camp brochure and look at things like meal times, sleeping arrangements and bathroom facilities. Pay particular attention to camp rules and regulations so that your teen has a good understanding of what is permitted. For older kids, it is important to stress a zero tolerance towards alcohol, drugs and any other risky activities, and make sure they are aware that misbehavior will most certainly result in being sent home early.
It’s always a good idea to anticipate any potential problems that may arise, especially if your teen has dietary restrictions, particular fears (such as the dark), is very shy around strangers, or if they have specific routines that they probably won’t be able to continue at camp. Talking through the differences between camp and home will help your teen feel prepared and gives them confidence, making it less likely that they will suddenly face something unexpected.
Your teen may have never shared a space with someone else, and certainly not with strangers, so give them the head’s up about social niceties when in close proximity of others, such as picking up after themselves, organizing a space for their own belongings, and making sure that other people’s possessions (and personal space) are respected and left alone.
It is also a good idea to encourage your teen to help pack for camp, asking them which clothes they’d prefer to take with them, and offering some valuable advice about what is practical, and would perhaps be better off left at home.
Make sure your teen knows how to remain in touch with you, but carefully check the regulations of the particular summer camp regarding telephone calls, for example. Some are rather stringent about not allowing any calls, whereas others are more flexible, but it is important to know what their rules are before your teen sets off for camp. If regular communication is frowned upon, then discuss with your teen where they should turn for help if they are worried about something, or if they just feel sad or lonely.
Don’t Make It a Big Deal
The separation caused by summer camp is often much harder on the parents than the kids; it’s natural for us to worry about them, especially when they are far away from our watchful eye! However, our kids don’t need to know this, and they certainly won’t benefit from you wailing every five minutes about how you’re not sure you’ll survive without them.
Of course, it goes without saying you need to tell your teen how much you love them, and you are going to miss them, but play this down; instead, focus on the positive and remain upbeat, sharing how excited you are that they are getting to experience something so fantastic.
The same goes for any worries you might have, for example, that your teen might be lonely, miss home, or not fit in. Most of the time parental fears prove totally unfounded, so don’t project your insecurities and needlessly stress your teen.
A lovely touch is to put something in their case for them to find when they arrive at camp; it could be a favorite chocolate bar, or a letter written from you. Just having that connection with home when they first arrive is something that many kids find calming and reassuring.