Parents, are you struggling over the decision to send your child to sleep away camp? Do you wonder if your child is old enough for this adventure? Well, I don’t believe that there is a “right” age—it’s more about the readiness that your child exhibits that lets us know they can handle being away from home.
Here are 5 signs your child may be ready for sleep away camp:
- Your child begins to express an interest in going to camp. As they develop peer relationships in school and begin spending more time with their friends away from you, this may be the time when a child verbalizes their desire to go away.
- Your child is able to spend longer periods away from you without getting upset. At younger ages, we often see that kids express a desire to have sleepovers with friends, but once the child is at their friend’s home, some anxiety may develop and they desire to return home. If this is still the case, I would recommend that you wait until your child can have sleepovers without being upset or returning home.
- Your child gets along well with their peers. This may seem like a no brainer, but if your child is displaying any type of behavioral problems at home or in school, most likely these will follow them to camp, and it may not be a good idea to have them go away as being away at camp could exacerbate the issues. Kids need to be able to get along with others as this is a major part of their growth at camp.
- Your child is able to follow directions from leaders. There are so many wonderful things that your child will be learning at camp. Being able to follow directions and respect the counselors and group leaders is a necessary skill in order to be away from home. Often, kids who are away from their parents may think they have free reign to do and say whatever they please, so it is important to discuss this aspect with your child and make sure they are capable of handling it while they are away from your watchful eye.
- Your child is asking to attend the type of camp that fits their needs. It is possible to have your child be ready for camp, but a mistake is made when choosing the type of camp. Some camps emphasize sports and others theater, or science. It’s crucial that you don’t place your child in an athletic camp if their desires and talents are in other areas. Your child will more than likely feel out of place and this can be a set-up for failure.
Figuring out the right time for your child to attend sleep away camp may be tricky, but paying attention to the signs they are ready may help make this process a bit easier. I do not believe in pushing a child to go before they are ready, and remember that even if your child expresses the interest to go away, it is still possible that they may get homesick.
Just remember this is normal and should pass as they become entrenched in camp life which is a rewarding and growth producing experience.
Jennifer Kelman has a BA in Sociology from American University and a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has worked with children in a variety of psychiatric and medical settings. She is the creator of Mrs. Pinkelmeyer, who inspires self-esteem in children through her love, warmth and silliness and author of the new award winning children’s book, Mrs. Pinkelmeyer and Moopus McGlinden Burn the Rrrrump Rrrroast. Learn more at mrspinkelmeyer.com.