Counselors to Parents: Don't Remake the Beds

So you're sending your children to camp for the first time, and everyone is feeling a little apprehensive. In fact, your child announces every other night at dinner, "I'm not going."

To help ease the transition into campfires and cabin life, here's some advice from some veteran counselors.

First, the drop off. This is important. Many parents, they say, make the mistake of hanging around too long.

"Usually the kids are ready when the parents drop them off. They're like, 'Get out of here,' " says Leigh Heister, an elementary-school teacher in Denver and a long-time counselor at Cheley Colorado Camp in Estes Park.

For those campers who are less enthusiastic, parents should still keep their time spent at camp relatively short: Meet the counselors, check out the cabin, and then hit the road.

"It's now time for [the child] to be a part of a different community, and the longer the parents are there, then the harder it is for the kid," Ms. Heister says.

"WE actually make all the beds before the campers arrive," Heister says, "but we have [parents] who will come in and remake the bed just right for their child."

Once camp officially begins, most don't allow parents to visit.

"Except for very rare cases, the kids should be on their own at camp," says John Morton, who worked for several summers at Camp Nawaka in western Massachusetts. "Any intervention outside of letters is harmful to a child's overall camp experience."

And watch what you write.

"I've had a lot of homesick campers over the years, but I've never had a camper not get over it," Hiester says. "The only time they get homesick again is when they get a letter from Mom or Dad saying how much they miss them."

If you want to spend time with your child at camp, do it when you pick him or her up. "Go see their project in arts and crafts," Morton suggests, "or take out a rowboat on the lake."

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