Preparing Your Teen/Preteen for Being Away from Home

Summer brings opportunities for preteens and teens to spread their wings and for those lucky enough, a chance to go away to camp. Preparing your child to be away from home can reduce the chances of and degree to which they may feel homesick.

Most camps restrict contact with home to letters while kids are at camp because it is easier for the kids to not have phone contact while away. You can provide comfort to your child by sending letters early so that they get mail while at camp. I learned the hard way that pictures are not a great thing to send. One year I made a collage of family and pet pictures to send to my daughter and when she came home, she told me that the collage had been the only letter that made her miss us.

Here are some suggestions to help your child adjust to being away from home:
  • Start early preparing your child. Find out what is worrying your child about being away from home and let them know what they can expect - about eating, sleeping, showering, activities, etc.. and then practice walking in the dark, using a flashlight, etc....
  • Stress the positive and talk about what your child should do if unhappy. Have a plan about what your child will do if they are sad or unhappy - let them know they can talk to the director, nurse, or counselor. Do not promise to "rescue" them or bring your child home early - stress the importance of coping when things are not perfect. You can pack a stuffed toy they can use for support, practice sleeping without a night light if that is a fear, so they get used to problem-solving.
  • Send letters so that your child knows you are thinking about them, and pack stationary and self-addressed envelopes so that writing to you is easy.
Finally, your child will be fine, but you may be nervous or anxious. Do not try to call your camper, but instead, call the director with any concerns you have and let him or her investigate and get back to you. You will both make it through this experience! Be brave!

Photo Credit: Stew pendous

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