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The Hood Magazine

Summer Camp and the Anxious Child

Feb 20, 2017 08:15AM ● By Hood Magazine
By Kristi Miller, Sioux Falls Psychological Services


You’re not alone if your child experiences some anxiety in new places when away from you.  Anxiety tends to commonly occur during childhood. Usually anxiety is temporary and causes little disruption. However, one in eight children experience an anxiety disorder, which is persistent and disturbing. 

Separation anxiety disorder is one type of anxiety disorder. It can occur in four percent of children age seven through nine. Children experiencing separation disorders often have difficulty calming when separated from their caregiver. They feel intense misery and experience somatic complaints and homesickness or other symptoms. It’s typically best to treat this anxiety with help from a mental health therapist.

If your child tends to experience “mild” anxiety about camp, you may want to consider the following:

  • Explore summer camps with your child’s input
  • Consider the distance from your home
  • Drop off and pick up your child if possible
  • Choose a camp where there are some familiar participants
  • Talk with camp administrators about policies and your child’s homesickness
  • Think about whether communication with you would help or hinder your child
  • Consider your child’s best interest and decide in advance if you intend to pick up your child early if intense anxiety develops
  • Devise a list of comforting coping strategies
               a.      A family or pet picture
               b.     A transitional object (blanket, stuffed animal, small token)
               c.      A supportive adult available
               d.     A journal for writing or drawing
               e.      Use of imagery to focus thoughts on pleasant experiences
               f.       Distraction with a fun activity
  • Discourage isolation
  • Communicate a positive attitude (while addressing any concerns)
  • Consider a day camp

If your child seems to dread the prospect of camp, it may be best to wait another year.  Allowing your child time to mature can help prevent negative present and future camp experiences.

Although there are many additional factors to consider regarding anxiety and summer camp, the information above could help. You’ll develop an informed decision regarding your child and hopefully enhance camp satisfaction for years to come for both of you.