Sending Your Boy To Camp The First Time

This is it! The time has come. You have to say goodbye to your pride and joy, the purpose of your existence, your number one priority. For a whole week (or maybe only three or four days – it really does not matter how long), you are turning your most valuable asset over to complete strangers.

I commend you. You are taking a big step. Yes, your son or daughter is going off to Summer Camp. Camp can be the most amazing experience your son or daughter can have. Lifelong friendships and memories are often the results.

As a former Camp Counselor for the NYS Methodist Church, an Intensive Survival Coordinator at an Expeditionary Learning School in Buffalo, NY, and a Royal Rangers Group and Outpost Coordinator. I have organized and led dozens of overnight camping trips, from one-nighters to ten-day cross-country mega-trips. I have been able to help many students and parents navigate these waters.

In this post, I have outlined a few ideas that might make your child’s stay more enjoyable and maybe help you get through it with your sanity as well. 

Prepare yourself mentally

The first thing is preparation. Prepare yourself for the most challenging part. And I do not say this lightly. You will not be tucking your child in every night. There it is: the bandaid has been ripped off. You will go three to four days without even speaking or seeing your child. And your child may want to see you. They cannot. For you and them, there should be no contact for at least four days. Homesickness is going to happen, and we have to help your child through that phase.


It’s going to happen. Once again, prepare for it. Usually, the first and second nights are the worst. This can be tough on your kid. My advice is to let them work through it. I promise it will go away by the third day. Unless you tell me otherwise, I will insist upon your son keeping their phone locked in the van. They can have it back on the way back when camp is over. And all leaders are instructed to not let them call home. For teenagers, this can be doubly traumatic.

Talking to them on the first night will only result in your making the 8-hour round trip to pick them up. They are very convincing and will persuade you they need to come home.

I have even had one boy get borrow a phone and tell his parents he had gotten bitten by a snake. When the parent finished yelling at me for not letting them know, I assured them he had not been bitten. Turned out to be a mosquito bite. Ugh..What a sleepless night. 

I will, however, post pics a few times a day on Facebook, Instagram, and our website. If you are not following – now is the time to do so.

Trust The Leaders

This can be a tough one in today’s environment. Suppose you have done your due

diligence and the organization is a legitimate one. In this case, there should be procedures in place to keep your child safe. If you want to take a look at Royal Ranger’s child-safety protocols, just click here.

Ready for the reunion

The reunion when camp is over can be different depending upon the kid. Some kids will cry a little and be very clingy. Some will seem more reserved and will even seem a little distant. Some will talk about camp, and some will take a while. Don’t take any of this as a sign of how camp went. It is just natural how different kids process seeing their parents after a time away. 

Urge them to talk about camp. Ask them questions, they will open up, and they will be excited. Each in their own way. And after a few weeks, see if they want to try it again. Most do.

If you ask them right away, many will say no, then change their minds later. Once again, this is usually not a sign of how camp went. They are just not ready to be away from you right now.

All in all. Camp can be a great time. So get ready: Talk to your son or daughter, prepare them for how they may be feeling, and go over the checklists a few times. You and your child will be glad you did.

The Packing List

I would be remiss if I did not take the time to say a couple of words about the packing list.

I should not have to say it, but we work really hard to make sure that the list is manageable, but if there is something on it, your child will probably need that item. If there is a question, or If you cannot get an item – ask the camp coordinator. Chances are they have resources you may not. But ask early. The night before the camp starts is not the time.

Label all personal items. A sharpie is your best friend there. And go over the list and have your son or daughter with you when you pack. Let them help. This allows them to know what is in the bag and where it is. I cannot tell how many times a boy has told me he did not bring an item that we later find in his pack.

So if the list says sneakers and boots – Please send sneakers and boots.

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