Summer camp is not just for older kids— children as young as 2 years old in the United States are increasingly attending these enriching experiences. With a wide range of day camp options available, young children often find themselves in brand-new environments, and in some cases, even switching camps every other week (hello, fellow juggling parents 👋). While the prospect of attending camp can be exciting, it can also bring about nerves and uncertainties, it’s a transition after all.
This week, let's ask some questions together to prepare for camp and ease those jitters!
1. How are we feeling about camp?
Validate any feelings of nervousness your child might face and share how you too might feel nervous the first day of a new job for example. Asking We" questions instead of "you" questions helps builds trust, it tells your child “we’re in this together”
Let’s start by acknowledging that it’s not always easy to talk with feelings with little kids and reading or listening to stories with similar themes might help strike conversation. We love Netflix's Bedtime Stories, and the episode "Lobo's First Sleepover" from Super Monsters is a great story to discuss separation anxiety in a new environment For younger kids, Elmo's episode about summer camp is also a fantastic and short story to share. Ms. Rachel has a great episode on feelings too!
2. What do we already know about camp?
Children ages 3-5 thrive on routine and predictability. About a week before camp starts, start a conversation with your child about what it will be like. Discuss what the day will look like, what activities they will do, and how drop-off will work. 📆 Encourage your child to imagine the teacher as a familiar figure rather than a stranger. For example, you can say, "Oh, Mr. Lily would be so excited to hear about this! She's going to be your teacher and will also read you books." By making the teacher feel familiar, you help your child feel more comfortable and build a positive connection even before starting camp.
3. "Remember when…?"
Remind them of a time they faced a similar challenge. "Remember the first day of preschool back in September? That was so hard. But remember how you were brave and you even made so many friends at the end of the school year?" Assume the role of the "reassuring pilot" to use a Dr. Becky metaphor. As much as you might feel nervous yourself, succumbing to your own anxiety might increase your child’s feelings of nervousness. Like a pilot guiding passengers through stormy weather, acknowledge the challenges ahead but express confidence in their children's ability to overcome them.
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