Signing up your child for their first week of sleep away camp is a big decision. Perhaps you went as a kid and want your own child to experience the same fun or maybe this is a new adventure for the both of you. While summer camp is a wonderful opportunity for your child to thrive and have fun it’s important to make sure that before signing them up your child is “sleep” ready to attend.
How do you know they are ready for sleep away camp?
Sending your child off to sleep away camp is no time for surprises. Open up the communication about what is involved and ask them if it’s something they would like to do. Simply explaining it to them may not be enough though, and you need to make sure they know what to expect. Together review the camp’s brochure and website. Most camps offer an open house where parents and future campers can attend. This way your child will get a better understanding of what it will be like when they go.
GIVE THEM A TEST RUN
Have they had a sleepover before? Sleep away camp isn’t the best time for an overnight first. Try a trial run at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s. Are they happy when away from you and able to sleep through the night? You know your child best. Are they showing you the signs that they can handle it?
OKAY, THEY’RE READY FOR THE EXPERIENCE, BUT NOW WHAT?
Open up communication with the camp. Camps and their employees understand that every child is different and they want to make sure that the needs of each child is met so that the children can have the best experience possible while away from home. It’s up to the parent to communicate these needs to the camp though. Perhaps your child is a bit of an introvert, or more sleep sensitive to their sleep routine. If you know your child isn’t one who can veer off routine night after night let the camp know this so that they make sure your child’s sleep is protected as best they can, when they can.
TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF
Sometimes we all need a break from our surroundings. Even more so for children who are more sensitive to over-stimulation. Explain to your child that if they need to step away from the group and have some quiet time to themselves that’s okay as long as they let their counselors know first. It’s a given that they won’t sleep as well or as much as they may at home so some rest periods here and there will be needed for some.
PREPARE THEM TO COHABITATE
If your child has never shared a room with anyone suddenly having to bunk with 6 or 8 kids could be a huge adjustment for them. Before heading off to camp get them ready to room share by teaching them to respect each others personal space and the importance of keeping their belongings organized in their own space and not another campers.
Tip! Will your child have to walk to the bathroom at night? It’s a good idea to have your child learn how to use a flashlight before heading off to camp.
HAVE THEM PACK THEIR OWN BAGS
It’s always important to make an unfamiliar environment more familiar. Let your child help you pack their bags and make sure they bring some comfort items from home. Items like a stuffed animal, favourite book, and their own blanket and pillow will help them feel more comfortable and secure in their new environment.
Tip! Surprise your young camper and pack away some secret photo’s of the family or a little bedtime care package that can includes a bedtime note that they can read each night before bed. Perfect for when they are feeling a little homesick.
THE REST IS UP TO YOU
The journey of sleep away camp is to teach our children independence and capability. Sometimes the biggest obstacle in allowing our children to succeed in this is us – the parents. It’s important that we ourselves let go. We want to make sure that we aren’t transferring our own anxieties about the experience on to our children. This can be a scary time for parents! Prepare yourself by doing your own research and embrace the newfound freedom for your child. And for yourself!
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips, subscribe to our newsletter and visit Good Night Sleep Site.