In conversation with Dr. Ganz Ferrance.
My kids are getting older, they’re 7 & 9 now, and I’ve been contemplating a summer camp where they actually stay there for a week – the sleepaway camp. I recall being around 8 years old when I attended my first overnight camp and I have really fond memories of it! It was very strange at first, and I was a little homesick too.
We decided to have an expert weigh in on some of the questions I had around knowing if your child is ready for sleepover camp. Alberta Mamas reached out to Dr. Ganz Ferrance, a registered psychologist in Alberta to discuss.
What are some signs you can watch for to show that your child is ready for some independence?
“One of the first things you’re watching for is interest in actually going to the camp. They need to think to themselves “Hey I can do this”. They should have a desire and want to go. Secondly, have they had sleepovers with friends or grandparents? If not, arrange for one night away and see how they are with separation.
A bunch of my friends got to go when they were young and my parents wouldn’t let me. The following year, I got to go and I remember how fun it was. And how sad I was that I missed the previous year.”
Are there things we can do to help mentally prepare a child being away from home if they’ve never been away before?
“Let them know that it will be a long amount of time. They understand time a bit better as they get older. If they want to go this summer let them know their going to stay with someone for one night, then a weekend, this helps ease them into it. You can see how they do with this preparation.”
Is there an age that you feel kids are more emotionally ready for a sleep away camp?
“As with most things, this is dependant on the child. There are 13 & 14 year olds that have a hard time being away from their family.”
“Start with lots of love. Don’t force the independence on them – that actually accomplishes the opposite. Let them know you are here for them so they feel secure when they venture out when they are on their own.
Acknowledge that you accept their feelings. Part of growing up is feeling different things and having new experiences. Let them know that you are open to listening to how they feel. That it’s ok to be scared – they can still do it even if they’re scared- sometimes we do what we are scared to do. And let them know you are proud of them, if they go or don’t go.
Utilize something called Bridging – When they have trouble sleeping when younger we say – Have a good night, see you in the morning. Can’t wait to have pancakes with you. With sleepovers you can apply the same concept. Have fun, see you tomorrow. We will get some ice cream and you can tell me all about what a big girl (or boy) you been. There is a closure to the plan that you follow through with and show consistence.”