Summer is almost here and that means that it's almost time for you to send the kids off to summer camp. This can be traumatic the first time and maybe even after then depending on your child. However, with a bit of preparation and planning you can make this a positive experience for all parties involved.
Involve Your Son In Selecting the Camp Experience
There are some super cool experiences available today for kids that I could only have dreamed of. However, it's important that you make sure that your son is involved in the process of picking the right one for him. Sending him off to camp is more than just an opportunity to get some peace and quiet around the house for a week, it's also an opportunity to do some father-son bonding. Talk with your son and find out if he wants something "back to nature" like the scout camp you probably went to - or does he want something that will train him on skills that will help him develop a career. Obviously, budgetary concerns are what they are, but this opportunity to talk about what's important to your son is something that you wont want to miss.
Make Sure There are No Surprises
This can be an awkward time in your son's life. For most young men, this is the first time that they will be away from their parents as well as the comfort and familiarity of their home. Even the most courageous young men will have challenges as they step out from the safety of your family structure. To help make this easier, you should make sure that he knows how to get in contact with you, what date and time you'll be returning, and also let him know if you will be taking a vacation while he's gone. Likewise, if you have any plans to do major house or yard changes while he's gone, make sure to let him know.
This will help reduce any sense of confusion when he returns, as well as making sure that he's able to reach you if something comes up.
Prepare a "Camp Kit"
Each camp is going to have different policies on what can and can't be brought with your child. Make sure to read that carefully and then prepare a kit that includes key health and medical items - but also things like cash, snacks, magazines, extra batteries, and an extra phone charger. Depending on where your camp is located, you may also consider providing him with a calling card so that he can make calls using a pay phone or land-line provided at the camp or off-site location.
Make Sure to Pack Properly
Packing properly is essential and is going to vary considerably depending on what sort of camp your son will be attending. However, here's a good list of what to pack for a scout camp. Your list may be different, but always ask the camp administrator what they recommend and then tailor that to your son's lifestyle.
Talk With Your Son And Be Honest About Your Camp Experiences
Summer camp can be an awesome experience - it can also be utter hell. There are going to be bullies and bad councilors that simply don't care. Likewise, there will be other disappointments such as the water skiing boat only working part of the time and unexpected torrential rains that make gathering firewood for campfires impossible. Be honest with your son and don't try to sugar coat things and tell him that it will be "the best experience of his life". While it may turn out that way, camp can also suck.
I still have a physical scar on my chin from a fight at camp and several emotional ones too. Ultimatly though, I did have great experiences and I feel like it helped shape who I am today - and that's a good thing.
Don't Baby Your Son - Treat Him Like the Young Man He Is
There's a tendancy - maybe more publicly on the mom side - but dad's can get emotional too. Look at this as what it really is. This is not just your son going off to camp for the first time, but the first in a series of coming of age rituals that will ultimately culminate in him (hopefully!) leaving home and living on his own in a few years. It's going to be tough to see him growing up, even tough to see some tears and possibly the look of trepidation as he steps on to that bus. However, it's important that he knows you are confident that he can handle it and that you have prepared him properly for the experience.