Preparing (Emotionally) For Sleepaway Camp



Heading off to camp is exciting for kids, but it can also fill children with nervous anticipation, especially if it’s the first time he or she is attending sleepaway camp.  Westchester psychologist and parenting specialist Lisa Schwartz has some helpful tips to prepare parents — and kids — for this upcoming adventure.

1) Try to display as much confidence as you can in your well thought out decision to send your child away to camp.  Trust your instincts as a parent, and remember: children feed off our energy, whether positive or negative.

2) When discussing camp, encourage the importance of exploring new activities and people — it’s ok not to like everyone and everything, but it’s always important to try!

3) Try to normalize homesickness (or no homesickness!) for both yourself and your child.  Everyone feels different emotions upon separating, and it’s ok to feel whatever you are feeling! Some children cry, and some don’t. Some parents cry and some don’t. Try to hold in those tears until the bus departs, but if you can’t we will all understand! One tip: Practicing what the goodbye might be like with your child before it actually happens might help to make it go smoother.

4) Consider discussing your child’s hopes and fears about camp in advance, elaborating on possible scenarios. Role playing can serve as practice for managing situations. When doing this, make sure to emphasize your child’s strengths. For example, if she/he is nervous about team sports, point out her consistent willingness to cheer on team members, or her skills in another areas such as creative arts.

5) Encourage your child to seek support and ask questions at camp, emphasizing that staff and counselors are there to help! When we model and reinforce this skill to children, we are teaching them an incredibly important life lesson.

6) Try to relax and realize that your child is gaining an abundance of wonderful opportunities for growth and exploration at sleepaway camp.  These experiences will remain with him for a lifetime.

And after all this preparation, remember: It’s ok to take some well-deserved time to yourself this summer or devote quality time to another child in your family and not feel guilty about!! Your Sleepaway camper will be home before you know it…

Lisa Schwartz works with parents and children of all ages in the Westchster area as both a psychologist and a parenting consultant. Lisa understands and values the importance of flexibility and offers phone sessions for busy moms and dads. Lisa also sees patients in her private Mt Kisco office for psychotherapy and runs parenting groups. To book an appointment with Lisa, or inquire about upcoming parent groups , you can email her at or call 914-721-0144.

This was originally posted on Wee Westchester and reposted with permission from Lisa.