Spring has finally arrived; the school year is
beginning to wind down, and summer is on its way. For me, summer always means
summer camp. Very soon, parents will be sending their most precious treasures
off to camp. And some of those campers will be going to camp for the very first
For many parents, sending a child to camp for
the first time is hard. If you are one of those parents, you may have many
questions — and maybe some concerns as well. Among those is one very important
question: how will you know if your child is really ready for this step?
Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer.
There is no way to determine with absolute certainty that any child is ready
for camp. But there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help gauge your
child’s emotional readiness for a summer at camp.
How does your child adjust to unfamiliar
environments, or new experiences? A child who is quick to adapt may be ready to
start their camp experience.
How does your child cope with sadness, or
anger, or disappointment? Of course, camp isn’t about that, but almost every
child will have moments of these kinds of experiences while they are at camp.
What makes a camp experience so wonderful for so many children is that at its
heart, camp is a lot of fun! But along with all the fun of playing camp games
and singing silly songs, of trying new things, and meeting new friends,
sometimes there are those difficult moments. A bit of homesickness, a
misunderstanding between friends, or maybe trying something new and becoming
frustrated upon discovering that it is harder than it looks. These difficult
moments are just another part of growing up; they are a part of life. But
luckily at camp, children don’t have to adapt and adjust all by themselves, as
there will be staff members who have been well trained to help your child in
These kinds of experiences are a normal part
of growing up — but when it is your child away at camp, and you get the letter
or postcard telling you about it, then the question might become, are you as a
parent emotionally ready? Are you ready to let your child begin to discover how
to figure these things out away from you?
When your child is emotionally ready to go to
camp and you are emotionally ready to let them, you will be giving your child
one of the most precious gifts you can give: a camp experience. At the end of
it, your child will come back to you a little bit taller, prouder, and stronger
because of all they did and learned while they were away from you — at camp.
Mary Rogers is the executive
director at Sherwood Forest Camp, a year-round youth development organization
serving children and youth from economically disadvantaged families in St.
Louis, Missouri. Mary is a long-time member of the American Camp Association
and holds a master’s degree in education from Harvard University.
The American Camp Association® (ACA) is a national
organization with more than 11,000 individual members and 3,000 member camps.
ACA is committed to collaborating with those who believe in quality camp
and outdoor experiences for children, youth, and adults. ACA provides
advocacy and evidence-based education and professional development, and is the
only national accrediting body for the organized camp experience. ACA
accredits approximately 2,400 diverse camps nationally. Accreditation
provides public evidence of a camp’s voluntary commitment to the health,
safety, and overall well-being of both campers and staff. For more information,