Saturday, 7 April 2012

Is my child ready to attend a sleep-away summer camp?

Going to camp can be a wonderful experience for children. It helps them develop an appreciation of nature, gain new skills and new friends, and it increases their social skills. They will have new experiences, follow different routines and be expected to listen to and obey new rules given by leaders they won't know, at least not for several days. How will a parent know if their child is ready to attend a sleep-away camp for the first time?

Consider: is the child accustomed to being away from a parent or caregiver for a large part of each day? They should be in an all-day school program. In most areas, this will be at least Grade One. Many camps won't accept children younger than seven.

He should be well-adjusted to school and go without complaint. He should have acquired a few friends and his report cards should show at least "Satisfactory" under behaviour and socializing skills.

Parents considering a camp experience for their boy or girl must be sure the child has no major health concerns, such as asthma or diabetes, before they decide. A thorough medical check-up is mandatory, and most camps will require one before finalizing a registration form.

There are camps geared to children with specific health concerns, and if the staff is trained to handle any health emergency, the parents should feel confident in making arrangements for the child to attend.

In fact, children with an illness or disability often reap extra benefits from a camping experience. They discover they are not alone in their problem and they may pick up hints on coping from peers similarly afflicted. They may also begin to find humor in situations and difficulties which had previously caused only frustration and anger.

It will be helpful if the child going to camp has been away from home on other occasions and has coped well. Has he been to sleep-overs with friends and enjoyed the experiences? Perhaps grandparents or friends have taken him for short vacations and returned with good reports of his adjustment to new routines and places.

Are his sleep patterns normal? For example, if he is subject to frequent, terrifying nightmares or if he must visit the washroom several times during the night, these circumstances must be discussed with the camp staff beforehand. Unless they can assure the parents they are willing and able to accommodate these individualities, it may be well to postpone the camp experience for a few years.

Wise parents will plan to provide a few outdoor activities before the child actually leaves for camp, such as picnics in a wooded area, or overnight excursions, sleeping in a tent or camper as a family. While there, be alert for undiscovered allergies to organisms present only in outdoor locations.

If the child reacts well and enjoys the experiences, and if all the above conditions are met, the child is probably ready to attend a sleep-away camp.

Send him off with a smile and kiss. If you have misgivings, keep them to yourself. At the same time, prepare for the unexpected. Resolve not to show your chagrin when it's finally time for him to come home and he begs to stay at camp for another two weeks

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