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Big Kids

28th May 2024

Tips for helping kids with anxiety about their first summer camp experience

Sophie Collins

Summer Camp

Summer camp season is just weeks away as the kids prepare to finish up school for another year

The beauty of camps is that not only are they fun and keep the little ones entertained, they also offer invaluable opportunities for children to develop essential life skills.

The camp environment—being away from home among peers—helps little ones to foster the growth of social skills, healthy separation from parents, and the cultivation of independence. 

Getting involved in camp activities also helps children to build confidence, but some kids may find it difficult when it’s their first time attending a camp.

Child Mind Institute has rounded up their top tips for parents of children who are anxious about heading off to daytime camps, or even sleep-away ones.

Tools for Taming Anxiety

The Child Mind Institute says helping your child overcome pre-camp nerves involves acknowledging their feelings and providing tools to manage them effectively. 

Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Involve your child in selecting the summer camp. Familiarise them with the camp environment and activities to help them set realistic expectations.
  2. Engage your child in shopping for new camp gear and emphasise the fun aspects of camp they can look forward to.
  3. Avoid highlighting potential anxieties. Instead of asking, “Are you nervous about horseback riding?” use open-ended questions like, “How do you feel about the horses?”
  4. Don’t dismiss their worries with phrases like, “There’s nothing to worry about!” Show empathy and validate their concerns.
  5. Discuss specific details such as sleeping arrangements (if applicable), meal times, and other daytime activities rather than abstract concepts like being away from home.
  6. Reflect on your own positive experiences away from home to provide reassurance and insight into the camp experience.
  7. Prolonged farewells can increase mixed feelings. Aim for quick goodbyes at the bus stop or drop off zone.
  8. Be mindful of your own feelings. Children can sense your anxiety even if it’s not verbalised. Express confidence in their ability to enjoy and succeed at camp.
  9. Help your child create realistic, goal-oriented plans for camp activities, such as making friends or passing a swimming test. Achieving these goals can boost their confidence and reduce anxiety.
  10. If your child has learning issues, inform the camp staff to ensure they can provide the necessary support. Let your child know that adults are available to help with any concerns.

When to Seek Help

While some anxiety is normal, there are signs that may indicate a more serious issue. 

Physical symptoms such as cold or clammy hands, butterflies, faintness, headaches, or nausea, along with excessive tearfulness, hiding, nightmares about separation, or questions about safety, could signal deeper concerns. 

If your child’s anxiety is severe enough to interfere with daily functioning, consulting a mental health professional might be necessary.

By preparing thoughtfully and addressing potential anxieties, you can help ensure your child has a positive and enriching summer camp experience.