How To Handle Pre-Camp Anxiety

27 April, 2016

Some kids are comfortable the moment they get to camp. Sure, they miss you throughout the day and can’t wait to come home to see you – but as soon as they see our DMDC vans, they’re off and running.

For others, it takes a while to warm up, and separation anxiety can get right in the way of fun. It can, in some cases, even lead to physical symptoms like stomach and headaches. With anxiety in the way, camp isn’t the fun, carefree experience it should be.

As second generation camp directors, we’re well experienced in helping children feel comfortable and supported at DMDC. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts we recommend for sending an anxious child to camp.

Do: Listen to their worries and keep an open dialogue about them. Shrugging off anxiety will only make it worse. Your child looks to you for comfort, so let them know their fears are legitimate and you’re there to listen—and help.

Don’t: Belittle their worries or show that you’re worried, too. Keep an open mind, show support, but stay strong and comforting in the process. Showing your own anxiety can increase your child’s. 

Do: Let your child take a favorite stuffed animal or toy to camp that reminds him or her of home. A comforting note or memento can go a long way in a new and unfamiliar situation.

Don’t: Cut off communication. If your child has severe anxiety, talk to us about setting up a daily phone call to touch base and let him or her know you’re close by.

Do: Ask positive questions. For example, “what was your favorite part about arts and crafts today?” or “Did you have more fun at soccer or basketball?” Avoiding negative language will help your children put their camp experience in a more positive perspective.

Don’t: Focus too heavily on fears. For example, avoid questions like “Was it scary to put your head underwater?” or “Were the kids in your group mean to you today?”

Do: Prepare your child with relaxation techniques. Having these tools in his or her back pocket can help alleviate anxiety throughout the day.

Don’t: Overcomplicate these activities. Breathing in and out slowly and counting to ten works—something a child can remember and use on his or her own.

Do: Keep your goodbyes short and cheery. If your child sees that you aren’t upset about sending him or her off to camp, it will make the situation less anxious all around.

Don’t: Indulge in anxiety along with your child while saying goodbye, or let him or her see you are upset in any way.

Keep these tools in your back pocket to ensure your child makes the most of his or her summer at DMDC. Our directors, Roberta and Carol, are always available to chat in depth.

We can’t wait to see you soon!