Dropping your child off at camp for the first time can be difficult for both the child and the parent, but how it gets handled—by both the camp and the parent—can help determine whether it is a positive transition or a tearful one.
- Talk to your child in the days leading up to camp about how drop off is going to unfold
What time will you be getting up? Will you be dropping him off at the bus or driving him up to camp? Will he know anybody when he gets there? Will he unpack himself or have a counsellor help him? Will he have a swim test on the first day?
- Give your child something to look forward to after you leave
Consider leaving a care package to be opened on the bus or later in the day. Tuck something special in her luggage that she will find while unpacking.
- Connect your child with somebody right away
Help your child get to know one of his counsellors or a cabin-mate. Coach him to introduce himself so that he gets a head-start on making friends.
- Arrive in the requested window, not early
At Kodiak, our drop-off time is between 9:30am and 11:30am. As our staff are busy getting everything ready for arrival day, getting to camp early is not a good idea. Arriving in the requested window will allow your camper to see camp at its best, and to have a great first impression when driving in.
- Let the staff do their job
Don’t stay too long at camp. Your child will have trouble getting settled if you’re sticking around. Once you take care of all of the necessary administrative tasks, it is best to give your hugs and kisses and be on your way. The longer you stay, the greater the chance that you are going to get emotional, which won’t help your child say goodbye. There is no need to unpack; the counsellors will help the campers unpack and get settled into their cabins once the parents have gone.
The camp also has specific jobs to facilitate a smooth transition. At our camp, we will…
- Be available to greet campers upon arrival
Most camps have traditions around how to greet campers driving in or taking the bus. At Camp Kodiak, we have all of the staff lining the camp road, clapping and cheering for the cars and buses as they arrive. We greet every family when they get out of the car and connect campers to their counsellors right away. By bringing your child within the camp’s designated window of time, you’ll be sure to get the best experience possible.
- Pay attention to campers who are having difficulty
Counsellors are trained to notice when somebody is having a tough time. Everyone is on duty for that first day, so the staff can make sure to give a bit of extra attention and TLC to campers who are having a difficult transition.
- Help them settle in
Many campers have trouble unpacking and setting up their cabin area. Counsellors should be available to help them so that every camper has an organized space to call their own. At Camp Kodiak, counsellors do the unpacking with the help of the campers. They help set up neatly ordered shelves and properly made beds so that campers can feel comfortable and at home.
- Keep them busy
Bored kids are unhappy kids. By having lots of things to do, kids are more likely to be distracted from their worry or initial homesickness. While the first day tends to be a different schedule than typical days at camp, counsellors should make sure that there is organization and predictability to the day. Our first day is spent unpacking, setting up, doing swim tests, taking tours of camp, clarifying rules and routines, and establishing rapport.
If that first day is a rough one for your or your camper, give lots of hugs and kisses, tell your child you love her and are proud of her for trying something new, and get on your way. Send a clear message that you have confidence in her and in the camp. You can always call the camp office later that day or the next to make sure she settled in.