Helping Children Adjust to Summer Camp

Conversations at the bus stop, birthday parties and various school functions have changed with the warming of the weather. Parent concerns over school cancelations and bad driving conditions are now giving way to thoughts of transition from school to day camp. We all want our children to be safe and have positive experiences that are filled with opportunities for growth, new friendships and fun! Here are three simple steps parents can take to help ease the transition.

Step 1. Choose the Right Program. Understand the mission of the camp and activities offered. Discussing both concerns and goals with the Camp Director will guide you in finding the right fit.

Step 2. Provide Your Child with Tools for Success. The most important tool is the art of making friends. Making friends is a skill that requires practice. Share with your child this guideline to friendship building:

  • Role play with your child to be prepared for different situations. For example, what to talk about at the lunch table.
  • Help the child understand that if a particular course of action does not work, another can be tried.
  • Give it time, good friendships can take a while to form.

Step 3. Continued Dialogue with Your Child. Continued parental engagement through ongoing conversation aids in camper adjustment. Be sure to choose a quiet time to make the conversation more meaningful. Setting aside a few minutes each night to talk about the day builds a trust, allows you to understand and address adjustment concerns in the moment and, over time, will be very meaningful.

Managing transitions gracefully is a life skill. Try using these steps as they can be helpful in easing the transition to camp!

Jamie Sirkin, LCSW, is Director of Summer Trails Day Camp in Somers, N.Y. She has served on the NY/NJ American Camp Association (ACA) board and participated in many committees.