The prospect of going on school camp for the first time can be really scary for many kids, but there are some simple things you can do to help them feel braver.
Simply telling them to suck-it-up or letting them miss the experience altogether won't help them. You need to spend some time reassuring them that everything will be OK, as conquering their fears will provide a big boost to their self confidence.
Here are seven tips to help your child brave their first school camp:
1. Acknowledge their fears
Talk to them about how they're feeling about going on camp and find out what's troubling them. Are they scared of being away from home? Will they miss you? Are they nervous about sleeping in a different bed or eating the food? Y
ou might find their concern is something that can be easily fixed in advanced. Or if it's something bigger, you have a chance to talk to them about ways to overcome their fears.
2. Meet with their teacher
Have an informal meeting with the teacher and your child. They would have dealt with nervous kids many times before and will provide some awesome solutions and information to help your child cope with their fears.
They can also use the time to reassure your child that everything will be OK.
3. Find out all the facts
Get online and check out where they'll be staying. Show your child where they'll be sleeping, eating and some of the activities they'll be doing. Have a look on a map so they can see exactly where the camp is situated and if you know any kids who've attended the same camp, ask them to tell your child all about their stay. The more information they have, the less they'll have to worry about.
4. Have some practice sleepovers
If your child has never had a sleepover, then it's the best time to arrange some with classmates. The first one could be a short 'sleepover'. Let them stay until after dinner, get into their pyjamas and watch a movie and when it's bedtime, if they feel nervous, then you pick them up. However, if they feel fine, then they can stay the night.
5. Give them a 'brave kit'
When you pack their bag include a few things from home. Pop in their favourite toy, a picture of the family or a picture of their pet and write a note to them about being brave. Tell them it's normal to feel butterflies in your belly, but to embrace the excitement.
And reassure them that it won't be long until they're back home snuggled in their own bed.
6. Get them excited
Don't get bogged down in the negatives. Try not to make a big deal of it. Instead, try to get them excited in the adventure. Talk with their friends at school pick-up about how much fun it's going to be. Get their siblings to tell them about what they like best about school camp.
Share your own experiences. Have a countdown on the calendar at home. Get them to shop for toiletries and pack their bag with you. Share in the excitement together.
7. Go along with them
And if all else fails, volunteer to go to camp as a chaperone. Relish the role with joy, but try to give them the space they need to be independent. Even attending with you is a big deal for some anxious children.
Every time they face one of their fears they will feel more confident. And that's the most important part of school camp, feeling braver and believing in your own abilities.