Get Psyched Friday: Camps
Friday, June 29, 2012
Is Your Child Ready for Camp?
Maureen Monaghan, a psychologist at Children’s National, provided some information to the reporter. Here are a few more of her tips.
Benefits of summer camps
Provide opportunities to develop maturity and independence
Promote flexibility, problem solving, and social skills (in a fun setting)
Specialty camps – for specific sports, interests, or children with specific diseases – offer a way for kids to gain new skills with kids who have similar interests.
How do you know when a child is ready for camp?
Generally, children are ready for an overnight camp between 8-10 years of age. Parents know their children best and should know if they are mature enough to handle it. A shorter, “trial” camp is often a good route for first-time campers.
Some indicators that your child may be ready:
- He can get himself dressed, teeth and hair brushed, and show some independence during daily routines
- She has had a successful sleepover at a friend’s house
- Your child is able to verbalize concerns to an adult comfortably
Talk with your child about camp
Include him in the decision-making process to find a camp that’s right. Schedule a tour of the camp ahead of time if you can.
Another tip is to talk with your child about specific scenarios and how to handle them. What if she doesn’t like the food one day? Or if she’s feeling sick? Counselors are trained to handle these situations so encourage them to confide in a camp counselor.
Manage your own expectations – and emotions!
Many children have a great time at camp and often forget to call or write home every day. And if they do, you should be prepared to hear a range of emotions. If your child is upset, be supportive – but don’t give him an easy out to come home. Everyone has bad days, and learning to cope with them is part of the experience.
Telling your child that you have confidence in your child to succeed at camp is also important. Adds Dr. Monaghan: "Kids pick up on adults’ social cues, so if you’re anxious about camp, try not to show it."
For all those first-time campers (and parents out there), good luck!
About the Expert
Maureen Monaghan, PhD, is a clinical and pediatric psychologist with specialization in child and adolescent adjustment to illness and adherence to medical regimens. She supervises psychology services for youth with chronic illness and their families and provides outpatient therapy services at the Northern Virginia Outpatient Center. Dr. Monaghan specializes in the treatment of children and adolescents with diabetes, and she also has expertise in treatment of behavioral sleep disorders.