Coping with Pre-Camp Jitters

March 13, 2019

The countdown is on; camp is only a few months away. Hopefully, the looming start of camp season brings campers and parents alike feelings of excitement and joy, but we know that campers also begin to feel nervous as the start of camp gets closer. While getting jitters is a normal part of taking on new adventures, here are a few ways to get rid of the butterflies before camp officially begins.

Know nerves are OK

If your camper is feeling a little anxious, first reassure yourself and your camper that such feelings are not only common but totally OK. Make sure to acknowledge your child’s real emotions. However, also understand that is possible to be nervous on the first day and then for your camper, once settled in, to have way too much fun to worry about home. Camp counselors, camp moms, directors, and other staff are trained to help campers navigate any and all nerves. So, while jitters are perfectly all right, don’t let them stop you or your camper! Your camper might be nervous as they start into initial activities. But in time, they’ll focus on the fun.

Focus on the positive

A positive attitude can change a lot, including a case of the pre-camp jitters. If you are sensing that your camper might be getting a little nervous about heading off to camp, it is time to turn on the enthusiasm and start talking up camp. Keep all of your camp conversations positive to help your camper build excitement instead of nerves.  Instead of asking your camper if they are nervous, ask them what they are most looking forward to at camp. Spend some time looking at the camp website or brochures and help your child to focus on all that they have to look forward to. Highlight all of the activities and events that camp has to offer that you are sure will pique your camper’s interest. To really step up the excitement, start a countdown or mark your camp dates on a calendar to get your camper to build anticipation for camp throughout the coming months.

Get prepared

The Boy Scouts say it best- Be Prepared. We all feel our most confident when we are well prepared for what is to come and getting ready for camp is no different. It is never too early to start getting prepared for the summer.  Prepping for camp is a huge process, between labeling your camper’s things, packing, filling out camp forms, and so much more. Start by writing a checklist that you and your camper can check off as you accomplish each pre-camp task. As you check each task off your list, you and your camper will both be reassured of your readiness for camp. Getting prepared early can keep you from having any unanticipated last-minute surprises that might lead to some anxiety for you and your camper.

Get a kid’s perspective

You can reassure your camper that they will love camp until you are blue in the face, but sometimes kids just need to hear it from other kids. Find a kid who has been to camp in the past who can build your camper’s enthusiasm for camp and share some of their experiences with going away for the summer. It might help your camper to hear how other kids have overcome pre-camp jitters and have learned to love camp. If you can’t find other camp kids for your camper to talk to, contact your camp staff and ask if they can connect you with a returning camp family who might be able to meet up or chat on the phone with your child.

Keep your cool

Kids aren’t the only ones who get nervous about camp – parents tend to be just as stressed as their campers! It can be scary to watch your pride and joy head off to camp and to let them fly solo, but don’t stress! Kids are surprisingly perceptive, so if you are worried, your camper will be, too. Instead, take a few deep breaths, remember to stay positive, and put on a brave face. Remember that going away to camp is a great way for your child to build confidence, and it is a healthy step in guiding your child into being more independent. So, although it might be tough, sometimes you just have to let go. Also, as much as you might be tempted, refrain from phrases like, “What am I going to do without you?” or “I can’t believe you are leaving me for two whole weeks!” when you drop your camper off. It’s better to encourage your camper that he/she will do great, even if you’re not there. That also means bargains like, “If you’re having a hard time, I’ll pick you up,” are a no-no. It’s hard not to utter those words, especially if your camper has nerves, but if you want to encourage independence and reassure your camper that they will have fun and succeed, it’s the opposite of what you want to do.

Get in touch

If the butterflies in your camper’s tummy just won’t give up, get in contact with your child’s camp.  The camp staff may be able to help ease your child’s transition to camp and make sure their experience at camp is a positive one.  Camp staffs have tons of experience working with families of nervous campers, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help.