Help your child get ready for overnight camp

Congratulations! We are so excited you have chosen to send your child to Gwynn Valley and recognize the significance of the decision you made to enroll your child in overnight camp. Our hope is that each camper will expand their confidence, curiosity and compassion for others. To prepare for a successful camp experience, here are some ways to help your child get ready for overnight camp.

TALK ABOUT HOMESICKNESS WITH YOUR CHILD

Be sure to ask your camper how they’re feeling about camp. Whether excited or anxious (most likely both!), be sure to acknowledge their feelings. Help them pick out a few things that they’re really looking forward to (riding a horse, petting a goat, making new friends, etc.). If they are feeling nervous or anxious, be curious and ask questions to learn exactly what they are concerned about so that you can help them come up with a plan.  

Appropriate pre-camp preparation is the best “medicine” for homesickness. If your child expresses concerns about being homesick, please let them know this is normal and there are people at camp who will help them. Let them know it is important to talk to their counselor when they are missing their family and home. To set your child up for success, don’t tell them you will come pick them up early if homesick. Rather, reassure them that you know they can do this and that you can’t wait for your child to share camp with you on closing day. 

Here’s a wonderful list of Homesickness Do’s and Don’ts from a fellow camp director in California, Audrey Monke. 

HELP US GET TO KNOW YOUR CHILD 

It’s all in the details!  We carefully review the details you share through the camper application and health history form. Please tell us anything you think might be helpful about your camper’s personality. Include friend requests, challenging behaviors, challenges at home, and anything else to help us get to know your child. 

Please be sure to fill out the Health History form as soon as possible and no later than May 1st. This form allows you to share information about allergies, dietary restrictions, medications, and health conditions. It also asks about other important details like bed-wetting, sleepwalking, or recent family changes (ie. a recent marriage, divorce, or death). Sharing this information early on helps us to best support your camper and create a positive camp experience! 

WATCH OUR CAMP VIDEOS

If you haven’t already, check out our new video, GV Favorite Things. Watching this video can help children picture themselves having a great time at camp. While you’re on that page, watch our 2019 session highlights lower down in the Video Gallery to learn more about Gwynn Valley and the camper experience.

PRACTICE SLEEPOVERS

Schedule some sleep-overs with family or friends. Having a few successful experiences sleeping away from home without their parents around will build a child’s confidence and lower the stakes for their first night at camp. 

COME VISIT CAMP

We are happy to provide tours all year round on weekdays or weekends. If you’re going to be in the area or want to make a special trip up for a visit, please call and schedule a tour. We also host an Open House for new camper families every year on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend from 2:00-4:00 when you can visit camp, take a tour, and meet some of our staff.

SPEAK WITH A DIRECTOR

Feel free to give one of our Directors a call to talk through any questions or concerns.  

How to Deal with Pre-Camp Jitters: Anxiety & Excitement as Two Sides of the Same Coin

Feeling anxious?  Instead of trying to calm down, try renaming the feeling as excitement.  These two emotions actually feel the same physiologically, your heart beats fast and cortisol surges.  The difference lies in how we conceptualize that feeling.  Both feelings indicate that uncertainty lies ahead: excitement indicates it’s something to look forward to, while anxiety indicates it’s something to be feared.  When we do anything for the first time, there’s always uncertainty.  We all need uncertainty; in fact, you can’t grow* without it.  Stepping out of your comfort zone will always feel, well, uncomfortable and that’s a good thing!
Here’s how to re-frame anxiety as excitement:
When your child expresses they are nervous or anxious about camp, acknowledge their feelings and normalize them.  You could say something like:  “Those butterflies in your stomach are just telling you you’re uncertain about what’s going to happen.  That’s what we feel when we try something new.  It’s exciting to try new things!”  Then, you can remind them of a time they were successful trying something new they were nervous about (ie. the first time they tried a new sport, went to a sleepover, started a new school, talked in front of the class, dove into the water headfirst, etc.).  Be encouraging and positive, reinforce that there’s something to look forward to.  Shift the focus by talking about the aspects they might be excited about.  If they stay focused on aspects they are anxious about, make a plan with them to address specific concerns.
Other ways to build excitement:
  • Make sure your child has seen the video of camp, talk about the different activities that camp offers, and ask them what they are most looking forward to.
  • Have them help pick out new gear they need for camp (ie. flashlight, sleeping bag, stationary for writing home).  Note: Having them pick out the items helps them feel ownership of the decision to go to camp.
  • Hang up pictures of camp or have a countdown calendar to camp.
  • Schedule a tour or come to the Open House. Call us for details 828-885-2900
  • “Practice” for camp by sleeping over with family or friends, or camping out in the yard.
Small comforts with big impact:
  • Make sure to pack their favorite “stuffie” or “lovie”
  • Have your child pick out a picture of your family to take with them.
  • Request for your child to have meals with their friend or sibling.
  • Be sure to write letters or send emails to them while they’re at camp.  Please remember we have a No Package policy.
  • Please do not tell your camper you will come pick them up if they are homesick because we find this undermines their confidence and does not set them up to succeed.  Instead, remind them that they are ready and reassure them that you know they can do it and will have fun!  Read more about homesickness,
Sources: Read more about re-framing anxiety as excitement in these articles:
Khazan, Olga. (2016, March 23). Can Three Words Turn Anxiety Into Success? The Atlantic.  Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com
Dahl, Melissa. (2016, March 23). You’re Excited Not Nervous.  You Just Keep Telling Yourself That. New York Magazine.  Retrieved from http://www.nymag.com
The science is found in this study published by the American Psychological Association:
Brooks, A.W. “Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 143, no. 3 (June 2014): 1144–1158. (Received Outstanding Dissertation Award by International Association for Conflict Management 2013.)
*Want to feel like a child development pro?  Help your child develop a growth mindset.