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As a director at Florida’s premier summer camp I often get asked the question by parents “Is my child ready for sleep-away camp?” While there is no simple answer to that question there is a few things that any parent can look at to evaluate their child’s readiness for camp.
Most parents need to start by asking themselves if they are ready to let their child go to sleep away Camp. In the late 1990’s a trend of parents struggling with separation from their children began to emerge. Today we see more parents that are dealing with separation from their children then we see homesickness with the campers.
As a parent you have to ask yourself the important questions about the value of allowing your child to build independence from you. Many times children are ready for camp, but parents have to let go. All too often I see campers that are fully ready for camp, but their parent’s unwillingness to separate from them holds them back.
Camp is an amazing place where children learn independence, build new relationships, confidence, and experience the outdoor world in a safe environment. With that said it does require some basic skills for success from the child.
If this is the first sleep away camp experience for your child, they should be able to demonstrate they can spend small amounts of time away from you. This may have been an overnight with a grandparent or a sleep over at a friend’s house. In some cases, this does not even need to be an overnight, but simply able to spend the day away from a parent.
Campers should also be able to manage some basic hygiene. For example, at our camp all campers must take a shower once a day. Counselors will help younger campers lay out their clothing, ensure they brush their teeth and help with most hygiene issues. A camper, however should be able to take a shower on their own or at the very least with minimal assistance.
Children should also be able to understand how to follow a base schedule for the day. In the case of Circle F Dude Ranch Camp our younger campers are escorted to activities while older campers change between activities on their own. Most campers who attend school and function on that schedule are able to be successful at camp.
Success at camp is as much about the camper and family as it is about the camp itself. All parents and guardians should take a close look at the summer camp where they choose to send their son or daughter. Quality camps have staff trained to help with campers with homesickness, building friends, and having the best experience possible. Their teams are invested in the power of camp and how to make a positive impact on your camper. At Circle F Dude Ranch Camp, we encourage you to tour our facility and speak regularly with the camp directors. There are no wrong questions when it comes to the well-being of your child for the summer.
Check out our next week’s post on how to prepare your camper for the Summer!
Ben Moss is the Camp Director at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp. He has over 20 years of youth development experience working in youth programing and summer camps.