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Helping A Nervous Child (or Parent) Prepare For Camp

After happily choosing Camps Kenwood and Evergreen we know that some of our campers still wrestle with a bit of nervousness about the coming summer. This is perfectly natural. For most, going away to summer camp in NH will be their first significant time away from home. Many will just be beginning to grasp the differences between life at home, and life at overnight camp. Even if they had a chance to visit us this summer, New Hampshire can seem like a far-off and mysterious place!


helping a nervous childOne of these campers may be yours. Starting this fall you may even start to hear language such as “I just won’t go” and “you can’t make me!” These statements can terrify parents, and rightly so! The impulse is to call the Camp Office and cancel for this summer. But in these situations our children are almost always using coded language that masks what they are really thinking. In our experience, what they are most often trying to say to their parents is “I’m scared. This Camp experience is outside of my comfort zone. I’m afraid that I might fail at this. Can you be a resource for me?” This is an important moment in your relationship with your child. We’d like to be a resource for you if these conversations should arise.


helping a nervous childHow About Tomorrow? – Experience has shown us that most of these conversations are initiated at bedtime. While this is a great time to bond with your son or daughter, it may also be a difficult time to have such an important conversation. Acknowledge what your child is expressing to you, but ask if you can revisit the conversation during the daytime.


Avoid Circular Conversations – It is unlikely that you will be able to win an argument that begins with “you can’t make me go!” So try and avoid these conversations all together. Instead, try something like “I can see that you are emotional about this topic, and I understand that. How about we just put this conversation aside until we both feel calmer?”. And then find a time to resume the conversation when everyone is in a better place.


helping a nervous childRefresh Their Memories – Months after a summer tour or home visit, it can be hard for some campers to remember why they liked K&E in the first place! Ask them what they remember about Camp. Encourage them to reconnect with the reasons that they chose K&E. The act of processing these memories can be a powerfully positive reminder. You can even try showing them our online virtual tour and videos on our Youtube channel.


Share Some Confidence – Communicate to them that you believe that they have the skills to be successful at Camp (even if you aren’t 100% sure!). Hearing this from a parent can have a major impact on a child’s willingness to take healthy risks. This reassurance may be enough to reshape your child’s thoughts about Camp.


helping a nervous childShare an Experience – Find a more fun, relaxing time to discuss his/her concerns about Camp, and do something together. Play a game just the two of you. Work on a fun art project. Go for a bike ride or out for an ice cream. Resolve not to answer your Blackberry or Iphone the whole time. Spend the first half hour just being together. Children are much more open to challenging conversations when they feel like the adult is focused on them in a positive, fun way!


Share Your Experiences – If you can, share with your child a story or two about a time in your life when you were anxious about doing something new. Tell them about how you tried something and overcame that fear. If possible, share an anecdote about a time when you backed away from a new experience, and ultimately regretted it. As the greatest role model in your child’s life, they are looking to you for reassurance that their feelings are normal, but are also looking for guidance on how to appropriately handle these feelings.


helping a nervous childExpect This Again – It is unlikely that a single conversation will neutralize these anxieties completely. It will probably make things better for a time, and then your child will want to revisit this discussion. That’s to be expected. But with each round this conversation should get easier, and the frequency of these talks should diminish.


Reach Out – We want to be your year-round partners. We have years of experience helping children and families work through these kind of challenges. We have tools and ideas with which you may not be familiar. We’re available to you and your child for phone calls, emails, and even an additional home visit, should you really need it. Please do not hesitate to contact us and share what is going on in your family.


We know how much you love your child, and how committed you are to providing them with the most developmentally appropriate experiences possible. By helping your child face this anxiety you will be giving them a gift that is even greater than a summer at Camp. You will be helping them develop into a more confident, resilient person. We look forward to working with you on that goal!


Camps Kenwood and Evergreen in Wilmot, NH  is a brother-sister overnight camp for children ages 7-15. If you would like to learn more about Camps Kenwood and Evergreen we invite you to download our online brochure.


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