Sending Your Kiddo off to Overnight Camp? Here's How to Get Them - and YOU - Ready to Avoid Separation Anxiety. MOTHERHOOD PART 2

The perfect overnight camp note: Short & sweet & boring and vaguely loving

I look into the rear-view mirror and see my 9 year old daughter’s face. She’s actually quiet, a state that comes irregularly to her, and about as often as a visit from the celestial Halley’s Comet or a glimpse of the elusive Sasquatch.

She’s hugging the pillow that will smell like home for the week tightly to her belly. And I’ve stopped chattering about stupid stuff and instead we listen to the San Fran radio station playing the latest Katy Perry hit.

My stomach is clenching. Just enough to let me know I’m not as cool as I thought I’d be about all this. Lord knows I’ve been through this before with my son – 3 years older than her.

But there’s something going on for me, too, today as I sense her mix of excitement and nervousness about being away from mom and dad for the week (“just” one week!)

So what did I say to her and do for her to get her ready for overnight camp? And what advice will I also take for myself? 


#1 “It’s OK to feel Sad!” This is the numero uno most important thing I made sure she (and i) heard as we had our quiet chats about overnight camp. There may be moments of sadness, missing mom, missing her bed. And that’s OK. 

Feel the sad feelings, take a moment to notice them, have a quiet moment if she needs to, and then move on to the next fun activity... “Like Archery!!!” is what I seem to constantly come up with as THE exciting overnight camp activity that she’ll never get to do at boring old home camps.

#2 Send a packet of handwritten notes on 3x5 index cards in sealed envelopes for every other day. I write short, ridiculous but hopefully soothing in their banality notes for her to open every-day or every-other-day or when she’s feeling the need for a Mommy check-in. 

For example: “Hello there sweetie! Whatdiddya have for breakfast today? I had a handful of walnuts and some coffee. Heading to the basement to organize the piles. Bet you’re having a blast swimming!” and then I draw a silly-uncoordinated-not-an-artist pic of a coffee cup or her “swimming”…. Short & sweet and sort of vaguely loving. A touchstone from home: All is boring & good here, you go have fun.

#3 Talk about overnight camp from the minute you sign her up. I like to think of this as important to prevent camp-shock-syndrome. Sorta like getting a new sibling. From the time it’s appropriate to start talking about a new baby brother or sister, you talk with your kiddo about having a new baby in the house and how things are going to be a little bit different and a lot the same. 

Do the same with overnight camp – some of the routine will be exactly like home (brush your teeth, go to bed, have some breakfast, pee) and some will be a little bit different and a lot of fun (a sleepover every night, giant sing-a-long campfires, a dining hall with all kinds of food!)

And, now back to our story: As we pull in to the designated supermarket parking lot meet-up spot, we see the Big Bus that will take her up to camp and all of the other families already milling around. I park and my daughter and I have a quiet, private moment for a HUGE hug. (Sob!)

And then, we join the jolly throng of campers and duffle bags and chatty parents and I am merely a comforting “see ya, mama!” figure as she boards the bus surrounded by her best buddies. Waving their arms around. Bouncing up and down on the seats. And wearing massive, adventurous smiles.

She’s ready whether I am or not…tissues (secretly) required. 

-Outdoorsy Mama
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” –Albert Einstein

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