As the van pulled away, I wanted nothing more than to change my mind. I wanted to pull my kids back to me, bring them home and keep them with me forever. Instead, I stood there watching them go, watching until the van was out of sight, watching just a few minutes longer as my eyes filled with the tears I had been holding back all morning. I didn’t want them to go as much as I wanted them to go.

Knowing when kids are ready for overnight camp feels concrete, even if there is a bit of a learning curve in the process.

  • Do they want to go? Are they excited?

  • Are they comfortable sleeping away from home?

  • Have you set up things to make them more comfortable?

Knowing when we as parents are ready for our kids to go to overnight camp is rarely even talked about.

While we can do all the research, find the perfect camp and understand the amazing opportunities overnight camp gives our kids, there are things to consider before watching that van drive away.

  1. How do I feel about it? Excited? Nervous? Ready? No matter how you feel, you will probably never be ready. That’s the reality of parenting kids as they grow up. There will always be a pull from somewhere deep inside you that wants to hold on. Even when you know you need to let go. It isn’t easy for anyone, but recognizing it helps.

  2. Do I feel safe? The safety of your kids is always one of your top priorities. Sending them to overnight camp, for one night, one week or a whole summer, is a big decision. Take time to learn about the camp. Find out about the people working with the kids. Questions about requirements for lifeguards and background checks are completely appropriate, and reputable camps will not be offended by any of these. Understanding the camp, how it works and the people responsible during that time will help you decide how comfortable you are entrusting them with your child.

  3. Am I excited about the opportunities they will have? If you are going to balance the struggle of letting them go, it is key to know why you are sending them in the first place. Will they be able to have tons of outdoor time to play? Will your science lover get to do experiments every day? Will your artist have a full week of creating? Knowing the benefits of the camp and how it will help your child grow, develop friendships, learn and foster independence will help when you are missing them.

  4. What is the emergency plan? Part of protecting our kids means being aware of dangers. The idea of not being there if something goes wrong can be hard and even hold parents back from sending kids to camp. From an injury to simple homesickness, think about how you would handle a situation if it arises. While it isn’t comfortable, understanding the camp protocols, as well as how you would be available and get to your child, is a helpful way to feel ready.

  5. How will I know what’s happening? Camps are full of ways to connect. While most don’t allow phone communication, many have fun ways to stay connected. Camps today have opportunities to send emails, text or even see daily pictures of your child at camp. Know the ways you can stay aware of your child’s experience. It will help you feel connected each day.

If you are uncertain about these things, take some time to think about them. Explore different camp options, like how far it is from your home and how many days they will go. If you are struggling, start closer to home or shorter time frame. If you are feeling more confident, explore longer options or out-of-state possibilities. Sending kids with a sibling or friend is a great way to have some peace of mind, and talking to families that have sent their kids to the camp you are considering will help you find out more than what they show on the website. See what makes you feel more comfortable, and go from there.

While it is important to decide if your child is ready to go to camp, it is equally important to make sure you are comfortable sending them. Taking time to think about these questions will help you decide if you are ready to send your child to overnight camp.