Tips for Helping Children with Summer Camp Anxiety

Krista Anderson-Hill, Senior Camp Correspondent

May 27, 2019 

Anxiety is a natural reaction to a new adventure.  It is normal for children to feel a combination of nervousness and excitement about attending sleep-away camp or a new day camp. For most children, they quickly move through those anxious feeling on their own, but some develop deeper anxiety that might get in the way of summer camp fun.  Here are a few tips to help your camper conquer summer camp anxiety.

  • Acknowledge Feelings

Try not to talk your child out of his/her feeling.  For example, saying “There is nothing to worry about. You are going to love camp.” is not helpful. Instead, encourage your child to express what he/she is worried about; sometimes the simple act of verbalizing our fears and being heard is what is needed. Validate his/her concerns and share that many children have worries about camp.

  • Encourage a Sense of Ownership and Control

One of the antidotes to anxiety is to gain control.  Help nurture the feeling of control by allowing your child to be involved in picking out the camp and camp activities. Talking to past campers or taking an in-person or virtual tour of the camp can help campers know what to expect.  Also, involving your child in the shopping and packing process for camp can increase his/her sense of control.

  • Try a Practice Run

If your child is nervous about going to a week-long day camp, have him/her engage in an afternoon or one-day enrichment class.  Or if your child is going to a sleep-away camp, set up a sleepover at relative’s or good friend’s home. These shorter experiences can really help to build your child’s confidence and ease worries.

  • Talk About Your Positive Camp Adventures

Children take our lead.  Sharing with your child about your childhood camp experience, including the new camp friends you made, the fun things you did, how you overcame your pre-camp nerves, can increase a child’s excitement.  That excitement can help chase away fears.

  • Talk to Camp Staff

Anxiety about sleep-away or day camp is nothing new to camp staff. Camp counselors and administrators are well prepared to help children cope with homesickness or worries about new experiences. Make a call to your camp a couple of weeks before camp and ask for their guidance and expertise.  Also, many camps provide useful tools to address camp anxiety on their websites.

  • Keep GoodByes Short and Sweet

Just like dropping your child off the first day of preschool, its best not to have a lingering goodbye.  Long goodbyes increase anxiety for both parent and child. It is best to say a quick goodbye and allow the camp counselors to quickly engaging your child in an activity and meet other campers.

Being anxious about summer camp is normal. And these tips should prove to be a good start to easing healthy worries and stress.  However, if your child cannot be comforted or the anxiety begins to interfere with daily life, it is wise to seek the advice of your pediatrician or talk with a counselor. A professional can help your child identify and change their anxious thoughts, learn coping strategies and embrace the magic of summer camp.