Preparing Your Child for Camp

Summer is just around the corner and there’s a lot of information about camp that we want to share. We encourage you to spend some time perusing the content on the six topics of our Parent Play-by-Play.

Parent Play-by-Play #4: Preparing Your Child for Camp

Going away from home for an extended period of time can be difficult for some children (and not just first-time campers). It is natural for them to be a little anxious as camp grows closer. Some will carry their concerns to camp. To help your child with these feelings, we have compiled this guide for parents. The pointers below will help prepare your child for the enriching experience that camp provides.

If your child is apprehensive about going to camp or showing any resistance or anxiety, the most important thing you can do is talk about it. Ignoring their feelings or hoping they will go away is not helpful. At the same time, you also don’t have to have a long drawn-out conversation. Sometimes a simple recognition of their feelings and the understanding that going away can be scary is all that is needed to help your child feel supported.

We are fortunate to have a compassionate and creative Camper Care Director, Rachel Shapiro, as a part of our staff. Rachel has deep experience working with children, particularly in an overnight camp environment, and will be spending her third summer at Maccabi. Rachel is an integral part of our summer planning team as we prepare to welcome campers and staff to what is likely the first major social experience they’ve had in some time.

Josh, Joel, and Rachel are all available for pre-camp conversations about any topic that you think will enable us to better care for your child this summer and set the path for a positive and memorable experience. Click this link to schedule time with Joel directly.

If your child exhibits concerns about going to camp, encourage an open expression of feelings. They are worried about the unknown and are looking for your understanding. It is helpful to tell your child that these concerns are normal and that many other campers feel the same way. Permit your child to call the camp office to ask questions and receive reassurance. Let them know that the camp director is always available to help, before and during camp.

Please do not be ambivalent about your child’s stay at camp. Your child needs to understand that they will be coming to camp for an extended time. It is important that a camper understands this commitment and is not encouraged to think he or she may leave before the session ends. A “try it out” approach does not work. Although it may temporarily calm the child at home it creates challenges at camp and makes it more difficult for us to help your child face the obstacle and overcome adversity. More often than not, taking this strategy with a child experiencing uncertainty will lead to an early departure. Fees are not refundable for early departure due to missing home.

Remind your camper that summer camp is about having fun, meeting new people, trying new things and taking on challenges. This approach may not work for all children, but as these are important values of our camp, if the moment feels right, it’s a good time to explore these aspects of being away from home. Our camp is designed to help campers, new and returning, to meet new people and make new friends. Make sure your child knows this as they prepare for their summer camp adventure.

Reassure your child that everything at home will be the same as when they left. This means that pets will be cared for, possessions will be protected from siblings, and their room will stay as it was left. If for any reason this cannot be promised, inform the camp office of the circumstances – we can be most helpful when we are informed.

Please notify the camp office of any upsetting event that may have occurred prior to camp or you anticipate happening during the summer. In this category would be an illness or death in the family, poor school grades, divorce, or moving to a new house or city.

When seeing your child off at the airport or dropping your child off at camp, make your parting brief and pleasant. Prolonged or tearful goodbyes can be emotionally upsetting to your child.

Lastly, please discuss with the Camp Director if your child has been under any psychological or psychiatric care at any time prior to camp. Maccabi Sports Camp is well prepared to deal with most children and the common problems of growing up. Our knowledge of the facts will give your child the best chance of success. On the flip side, being left in the dark regarding a serious situation leaves us unable to properly care for your child.

As you can see, open conversation and support are best and key to your child’s success. By spending some time properly discussing your camper’s feelings, you can do wonders to set them up for an amazing overnight camp experience away from home.

As always, please feel free to call camp to discuss further. We are happy to be part of any conversation that will offer more support for your child.

To view all of the topics in this series, click here.

Josh Steinharter.

About author Josh Steinharter

Senior Director

Starting in 2005, Josh was the Athletic Program Manager for Youth & Coach Development at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, serving over 1,500 children annually through teams, classes, camps, and select-level sports. He also served as Delegation Head for Team San Francisco at the JCC Maccabi Games®. As co-creator of the JCCSF Fellowship in Sports Leadership, Josh helped develop and lead the teen program that taught leadership through the lens of coaching youth sports. In 2013, Josh founded Maccabi Sports Camp, the first Jewish overnight sports camp on the West Coast.

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