First Camp Experiences

“As parents, recognizing that you and your child are on a journey together, growing, learning, and experiencing the ages and stages of growing up in a parallel yet separate way are key to adequately preparing yourself and your child for any type of separation, including going to camp for the first time,” states Peg Smith, executive director of the American Camping Association (ACA).

Follow are tips to consider as you ask yourself, “Who’s going through separation anxiety, me or my child?”

Separation is a part of growing up. Find opportunities to give your child independence in safe, structured surroundings with caring adults such as the camp environment. Healthy separation prepares your child to be a confident, productive adult.

Understand that separation is natural and necessary; remember your baby’s first crawl, the first time your child stepped onto a school bus, and the overnight at a friend’s or relative’s – these memories are all important developmental phases you and your child successfully encountered. Each successful separation gives your child confidence for the next challenge.

  • Implement steps to help prepare you and your child to have a smooth transition to camp by using the tips in “Preparing Children for the Summer camp Experience.” Both parents and children benefit from these recommendations.
  • Ask the right questions about the camp you are choosing for your child and be sure to match your child’s interest and age to the appropriate camp atmosphere. “How to Choose a Camp” can give you helpful ideas about what questions to ask.
  • Recognize separating from your child may be just as difficult for you as for your child, maybe even more so.

“I often wonder who is being prepared during each incremental separation experience throughout a child’s life – the growing child or the maturing adult,” comments Smith.

Founded in 1910, ACA is a national community of camp professionals and is dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults through the camp experience. ACA recognizes that camp experience as a significant contributor to positive child and youth development. In addition, it is the only organization that accredits all types of camps based on 300 standards for health, safety and program quality. For more information visit the ACA Web site,, or call 1-800-428-CAMP.


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