One of the hardest things about sending kids to overnight camp is worrying about the things that could happen and knowing that you will not be there to fix everything or answer each question. There are so many scenarios to conjure:

  • What if they can’t sleep?
  • What if they get hurt?
  • What if they lose their towel?

As parents, our list of “what-ifs” is often longer than the forms you fill out to send them to camp. And, kids usually have their own “what-if” worries as well. While you can’t delete the “what-ifs” from your minds, you can help your children feel prepared (and put yourself a little more at ease) by having some “what-if” conversations before they leave.

What if I get hurt?

Camp staff are trained to deal with all kinds of medical situations, from band-aids to bones and beyond. Talk about the staff they have available, and reassure your child that the nurse will contact you in an emergency.

What if I get lost?

While the kids will likely spend time outdoors and be in new surroundings, kids are not left on their own. There are a lot of staff and other kids that will always be around. Plus, there are always people where the fun stuff is.

What if I don’t make any friends?

Going somewhere new, where you don’t know anyone, can feel scary. “We work hard from the first moment that a child arrives at camp to welcome them into a community of full acceptance and true belonging,” said Matty Cook, Camp Director at Camp Southern Ground based in Fayetteville. “Through building a strong sense of belonging with their counselors and fellow campers something truly magical happens. Once this belonging takes hold, the people at camp become their people, camp becomes their place, and an environment that was foreign becomes their home away from home.” You should also remind your child that most of the other kids feel the same way, and that camp is full of fun ways to help them make friends.

What if I lose my ______?

It could be anything. A towel, swimsuit, a favorite stuffed bear that no one knows is hidden under the pillow. Things will get lost at camp. The best bet is to talk to your counselor for help. Camp is full of extra things left behind by other kids, plus some just for this purpose. Kids don’t need to pretend or miss out on an activity if they lose something. There are always extras, a place to get things, or a friend who is willing to share.

What if I miss home?

Your child won’t be the first and they won’t be the last to feel homesick. It’s one of the most common and expected struggles with going to camp. “Attending summer camp for the first time is such an exciting experience, but it can also be a little scary,” said Elizabeth Klespies from Camp Juliette Low in Cloudland, Ga. “Our trained counselor staff is ready to help campers work through their anxiety about being away from home. The combination of a warm, supportive environment and a busy schedule of activities helps most campers get over their anxieties very quickly—usually within a day or two.”

What if someone tries to touch me or makes me feel uncomfortable?

Say something. Always. Find another adult, go to the nurse, tell the counselor or lifeguard. While incidents like this are not common, it is important to talk about how to handle them. Staying in groups is another great way to help foster a safe, comfortable environment.

What if I’m scared of the dark?

It can get pretty dark at night at camp. Bringing flashlights is always a good starting place. Another great tip is to bring a reading light and a book, this way kids don’t have to tell anyone they are scared; they can just read before bed.

What if I don’t want it to end?

This one is one of the most common problems kids face by the end of camp! They simply don’t want the fun to end. Remind them to share great memories with you, stay in touch with new friends, and be ready to sign up for next year!

-Rebecca Hastings

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