All over the United States this summer, there will be around 10 million children attending some sort of organized summer camp; either a music camp, church camp, or sports camp, etc according to the American Camp Association (ACA). No matter what the circumstances, always prepare your child, not only physically, but mentally as well. Around 4% of the 10 million campers going away this summer are currently suffering from Separation Anxiety Syndrome (SEP). SEP usually occurs at “sleep away camps” rather than just day camps. Another 95% of the campers suffer from homesickness, which is completely different than SEP in that homesickness does not interfere with a child’s social ability at camp. Homesickness only causes loneliness and thoughts of home.
Although such a large percentage of campers suffer from these different types of anxiety, there are several solutions that you as a parent can try with your child.
- Speak with camp directors prior to arriving to camp, so they can come alongside to help your child work through any anxiety or homesickness.
- Build up your child, encourage, and personally connect with your child to help them see that you understand any anxiety they may have
- Include your child in the decision to go to camp, and where to go.
- Help your child understand that worrying about camp is a chance for them to look to God for help and to depend on Him. Philippians 4:6-7 is a good reminder! "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
- Don’t show your personal sadness in dealing with your child leaving, which can create more anxiety for your child. It is important for you to trust in God through this time as well, especially if it is the first time your child has gone to camp!
- Try to avoid prolonged good-byes.
- Avoid constantly reassuring your child. Help them learn on their own that they will be ok because they can depend on God. Remind them of God's sovereignty, that He is always with them, and He will give them comfort if they turn to Him.
- When you start to see any symptoms of SEP or homesickness, intervene early in reminding your child to trust in God, in order to guarantee the best camp experience for your child.
Since our 3rd & 4th graders are heading out to Summer Camp tomorrow, please consider these tips and more, many of which I read in "Happy Camper" by Kayla Mossien on the Parent Guide News site.
- Michelle Phillips, Children's Ministry Kairos Intern