Proven Strategies to Help Your Child Crush Separation Anxiety at Summer Camp

Proven Strategies to Help Your Child Crush Separation Anxiety at Summer Camp

27 March 2024

Overnight summer camp is a thrilling experience that creates fond childhood memories that will last a lifetime. During your child’s week at camp, they will make new friends, try exciting activities they don’t get to do at home and soak up time away from electronic devices while enjoying the great outdoors.

But not all kids are adventure enthusiasts who say goodbye to mom and dad and fully embrace new experiences. Many children are shy and reserved in new situations and may become anxious or nervous when saying goodbye to parents or caregivers.

Separation anxiety is a sign of meaningful attachment and often occurs in young children. It is normal for a child to feel anxiety when parents leave, especially if it’s your child’s first time at summer camp.

Depending on the severity, it can manifest itself through clinginess, crying, or rapid breathing. Some children have physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches when they fear the unknown. When this occurs, both the child and parent can experience anxiety and distress.

The good news is that you can use tested and proven strategies to help your child overcome separation anxiety so they can have a successful summer camp experience.

Embrace the familiar: Sending a small comfort item to camp will remind them of home and can provide your child with a sense of stability. This is often the root cause of separation anxiety. A few examples of comfort items include a small blanket, wallet-size photos, a stuffed animal, a key chain, or a special pillow. These items are a reminder that their family is never far away.

At Carolina Creek, you’ll have the opportunity to help your child choose and make up their bunk. This can help camper AND parent have peace in knowing they have a space to call home away from home.

When using this strategy, avoid sending high-value items or things that would cause additional distress if lost or damaged.

Communication while your child is at camp: Most overnight camps discourage phone calls because it can worsen your child’s anxiety. However, sending an encouraging letter is often helpful. They can carry it with them and read it if they feel anxious or afraid.

At Carolina Creek you’ll have the opportunity to enroll in Bunk1, our online messaging system, that allows parents to send one way emails each day to your child. Parents can comment on photos you’ve seen of your child and messages allow for a shared experience in the fun they’re having at camp.

Another strategy is sending stationary or cards with pre-addressed envelopes, allowing your child to write to family and friends while at camp. Despite living in a time when electronic communication has largely replaced letter writing, it remains an effective strategy to combat separation anxiety.

The act of writing helps children feel connected with loved ones while helping them develop independence and other important life skills. If they don’t want to send letters, writing down their thoughts through journaling can reduce stress, improve mood, promote better sleep, and increase self-confidence.

Their camp counselor can encourage them to write their feelings or record camp experiences.

Lean on camp counselors: Camp staff and parents can work together to love and help your child. The summer staff team employs strategies to help campers manage fears and anxiety. Kids will know they are not alone and have a trusted adult to love and encourage them. Youth counselors can also redirect their attention, easing their discomfort and helping them stay engaged in the current activity.

Pre-camp planning: If you are concerned about your child adjusting to overnight camp, you can talk to them in the days leading up to camp. Reviewing the daily camp schedule and the fun activities they will enjoy can set expectations and reduce anxiety. Let them talk about their fears and ask questions to give them a sense of control. We have a variety of recap videos from previous years that show all the fun they’ll experience at Carolina Creek.

Bring-a-Friend to summer camp: Friends make everything better, including summer camp. Having someone they already know in their cabin can make the adjustment to camp life easier and help them overcome those initial feelings of awkwardness. For most of us, seeing a friendly face puts us at ease and helps us relax in new environments.

Bringing a friend could also put money back in your pocket. For a limited time, you can save 25% off camp when a friend registers.

Together, we can help your child overcome any separation anxiety they experience and ensure their camp experience is positive and can create lasting memories.