Help Your Child Transition From Summer Camp To School
As a parent bringing your child home from summer camp, you might be tempted to metaphorically dust your hands and breathe a sigh of relief. After all, you’ve done your child a huge favor by sending them to camp: they’ve made new friends, learned new skills, grown as an individual, and had a great time doing all of it. Now they’ll thank you for being such a great parent, and you can coast for a bit, right?
Well, not quite. First, even if summer camp was a huge hit with your child, they now have to make a double transition from camp life to home life, then back to school life. And if their camp experience proved more difficult than expected and they’re also dreading school, there will be more to unpack than bags of laundry and shower shoes. In the first case, they may miss camp and feel conflicted about returning home. In the second, they may worry about a number of factors, including feeling as anxious or homesick at school as they may have been at camp.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to smooth out potential rough spots along the way. Here are some tips to help your child adjust to the end of summer at home and successfully navigate their fall transition to school.
Making the Transition From Summer Camp to Home
Here’s what you can do to help your child return to a sense of normalcy at home once they return from summer camp:
- Allow your child to decompress. The immediate post-camp period is not the time to leave for a big family vacation or make other itinerary-heavy plans. Instead, allow your child or teen to rest, catch up on sleep, and spend some time doing nothing so they can properly recover from the whirlwind of camp. Letting them recuperate now can help them feel more ready and able to tackle the return to school when the time comes.
- Listen when they recount their summer camp experiences. Listening to your child is the best way to understand how they’re feeling about everything: camp, the end of summer at home, and the return to school. You shouldn’t interrogate them, but you can demonstrate interest in their state of mind and let them know you’re available if they want to talk about anything that’s troubling them. This may be an especially helpful approach with tweens and teens.
- Emphasize silver linings. However your child or teen is feeling about the end of camp or the start of school, it’s likely that they can be cheered up by something to be thankful for or look forward to. Kids who miss camp or are anxious about school can focus on savoring the last days of summer and keeping in touch with their camp friends; those who love fall or Halloween can look forward to harvest season. Many will be glad for the comfort of their own bed, personal space, tech devices, and modern conveniences.
Preparing for Back-to-School Transitions
In preparing kids for back-to-school, a little mental and material planning goes a long way. Here’s what you can do to help your child or teen transition smoothly from carefree summer activities to a bright new school year:
- Prepare them for their new sleep schedule. Particularly if your child or teen has been sleeping in after returning from camp, it’s a good idea to gradually move up their sleep and wake schedule until it matches the one they’ll have during the school year. To help with this, limit screen time in the hours leading up to bedtime and reduce nighttime light pollution as much as possible to encourage healthy sleep patterns.
- Take them shopping for clothes and supplies. A good shopping trip can be fun and relaxing, especially if you do it in person. Your child or teen is likely to be at least a little excited about getting new school supplies and clothes, and the process of shopping for them can help them mentally prepare for the new academic year. Again, be sure to listen to any concerns they have about school and supplies. The earlier you get the shopping done, the more prepared and the less stressed both of you will be.
- Enroll them in after-school activities. Plenty of kids naturally chafe against the rigidity of having to sit still in a classroom for hours at a time. If yours is one of them, signing them up for an after-school activity can be a great way to get them moving, socializing, and engaging the non-academic parts of their brains. Extracurricular activities are often similar to those at summer camp, so they can be a great choice for kids who miss camp or who relish the chance to show off the abilities they learned there.
- Remind them how capable they’ve become. Whether they’ve thoroughly enjoyed their summer camp experience or not, odds are that your child has become more capable and resilient because of it. Remind them that they should be proud of what they’ve accomplished over the summer and that these new abilities can help to get them through the challenges of the new school year. Help them to focus on the positive and on moving forward; explain that embracing new experiences is an important part of life.
Make the Most of Your Child’s Summer With Surprise Lake Camp
Surprise Lake Camp is a nonprofit organization that provides a home away from home for generations of young people. We believe in the value of community and friendship. Our Jewish values and identity shape our connection to nature. We’re dedicated to helping young people unplug, grow, and develop values, confidence, and skills to last a lifetime, adding to SLC’s storied history as the nation’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp.
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