Do your kids get nervous in new situations? Does your preschooler or kindergartener shy away from others when you’re not present? Sometimes kids respond in ways like these when they don’t know what to expect or when placed in unfamiliar surroundings. But with summer camp publications rightfully focusing on happy children playing in the sunshine, learning amazing, new skills and having a ton of fun, let’s not forget that some kids experience anxiety ahead of this common summer day camp adventure – maybe because they’ve never been to camp before, or maybe the emotions of the last few years have taken their toll.
Signs of Anxiety
We’ve all experienced a mix of mild nervousness and excitement when doing something new. But there’s a big difference between that and all-encompassing worry.
As a parent, you may have cause for concern if your kids demonstrate the following symptoms of fear:
- Sweaty hands or palms
- Excessive butterflies or nervous tummies
- Feeling faint or passing out
- Excessive crying
- Night terrors or bad dreams
- Asking fearful questions, like “What if something happens to me and you can’t get there?”
- Behavior interfering with daily activities
Signs like these may indicate more than just pre-camp anxiety. Contact your pediatrician or mental health professional if you notice more severe symptoms and need help.
A Mix of Excitement and Nerves
When kids feel a little nervous about new experiences, we reassure them that those feelings are normal. They’re our body’s way of gearing up for something important, right? But we don’t want nervousness turning into full-blown anxiety. If this happens with your child, take the following steps to help them cope.
#1: Involve Them
Most kids want a measure of control over their lives. That’s normal! So involve them in picking their summer camp, based on their age and interests. Get to know the camp together, either by visiting online or in person. Look over the activities and discuss expectations. Talk to other families who’ve attended summer camps for more information so your child better understands what’s coming.
#2: Focus on Fun
Camp should be a fun and engaging experience. Discuss camp preparations and activities, and help your child get excited about performing, drawing, creating, inventing or playing. At KidzToPros’ camps, the possibilities are endless, so talk about whatever gets your kids’ engines roaring!
#3: Ask General, Open-Ended Questions
Getting kids to talk about their fears can sometimes be challenging. Asking “yes” or “no” questions leads to short, uninformative answers. Topics matter, as do details, so you want to validate those concerns, while encouraging kids to share.
Avoid suggesting anything negative. For instance, rather than starting a discussion with something like, “Are you nervous about making new friends?” ask instead, “How are you feeling about making new friends?”
#4: Show Empathy and Concern
Never trivialize or negate a child’s concerns. Avoid responses like, “There’s nothing to be nervous about!” or “You’re just being silly.” Responses like these discourage kids from opening up in the future. Instead, try answering with, “Tell me more,” or ask them how they think they could best handle their fears.
#5: Focus on Concrete Details
Avoid general, anxiety-causing ideas, like hours spent away from the family or uncertainty about new activities. Instead, talk specifically about things your child might look forward to, like what they may create each day, how they might make friends with peers, sports tournaments they may participate in, and how fun camp activities make time fly.
Make sure you put down your phone, work or other distractions and really listen to your kids. Make eye contact, offer a reassuring touch and listen before you speak. Doing so makes your child feel valued and heard. Once summer day camp begins, your child will most likely forget all about those feelings of distress and remember only that you were there to listen and help them work through them.
Go over scenarios that may possibly take place at camp. Let your child practice how to respond when meeting new people or trying new things. They may feel less nervous if they role-play with you before camp begins. They’ll also feel more confident with your love and support.
#8: Be Honest with Camp Directors and Staff
If your youngster struggles with emotional or learning needs, share this information with the camp director and staff. You may want to put this information in writing, along with a list of any medications your child takes, for instructors and teachers to refer back to. Also, teach your child to self-advocate. They shouldn’t feel embarrassed about their differences, and camp staff appreciates being made aware so they can support your student in the best way possible.
KidzToPros Has Your Back
While summer camp makes the season memorable for most children, be tender with nervous ones. It may take some time and positive experiences for them to come fully on board.
Meanwhile, contact KidzToPros to find fun and engaging camps near you that entice your shy, timid or introvert child and get them looking forward to summer break. Our supportive professionals have your back and will help ensure a positive summer day camp experience your child remembers for a lifetime.
Be sure to include code CAMP40 for $40 off!