May 13, 2023

How To Prepare Your Child For Overnight Camp

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by Katie Rapp

From the wise words of Olaf himself, “Winter’s a good time to stay in and cuddle, but put me in summer and I’ll be a … happy snowman!” …or in some of your kid’s cases, a happy camper!

Summertime comes with so many fun opportunities for kids to get out of their typical routine, have fun, and be stretched outside of their normal comfort zone.  Whether this be through a church VBS program, family vacations, or in some cases, an overnight youth camp experience!

Maybe the phrase “overnight camp” sends waves of anxiety through both you as a parent or your child, or maybe your child has been going to camp for years.  Regardless of where you are at with it, camp is an amazing opportunity for your child to grow personally and spiritually!

Maybe you have been asking yourself the question, “When is it time to send my kid to overnight camp?”

After several years of working in camping ministry, one of the phrases I quickly adopted when talking to parents about this question was, “It’s the right time when both YOU are ready and your CHILD is ready.”

It is ok if your child voices that they are not ready for camp, or if you feel like you as the parent are not ready to let them go for that length of time.  Every child and every parent is different.

A couple of questions to ask yourself to know if each of you are ready:

  • Is my child able to voice when they need help, feel afraid, or are hurt? Personally, I believe this is one of the most important questions to ask.  Having a great week at camp doesn’t mean that every moment of the week will be perfect.  Your child might scrape their knee, experience some homesickness, or get their feelings hurt.  These are normal life experiences that you can’t protect them from at all times.  The most important thing is that your child is equipped to handle these moments when they come.  Often times this simply means talking to someone and asking for help.  Camp staff is there to do that very thing—help your child.
  • Has my child shown signs of independence or had an experience away from home that was successful? (Child is able to brush their teeth, take a shower, change their clothes, etc. with minimal help)
  • Are both kid and parent excited about the opportunity and have something tangible they are looking forward to about the experience? (I am excited to go with my friend, I can’t wait to do the waterslides, I am excited for my child to experience horseback riding, etc.)
  • As a parent, do I know how I would handle the situation if my child wanted to come home from camp early? It is not a bad idea to have this conversation with your child before they go and to set expectations with them ahead of time.  Also, if homesickness is something you think your child might struggle with, make sure to know the camp’s protocol before you drop them off.  (How does the camp walk campers through homesickness, do they notify parents, will my child have access to call me or receive letters, etc.)

Lastly, the most important thing you can do for both you and your child in sending them to camp is pray.

Pray for peace in the process and for God to reveal any grievous way in you (Psalm 139:24) that is hindering your trust in Him.   Ask the Lord to work in your heart and to help you in surrendering your child to Him.

Also, pray for wisdom! This might not be the right summer to send your child to overnight camp, and that is ok.

For your child, pray that God would use this week at camp to draw them closer to Him.  There are so many opportunities for your child to be grown spiritually this week! Ask that God would use the fun moments, the “spiritual moments”, and even the homesick moments to reveal Himself to your child.

Lastly, pray for the camp staff! That God would give them discernment and strength to speak truth to your child this week.  Let us as parents not forget the ones serving as hands and feet for the Gospel, and not just for the one week your child is there, but, for many of them, the entire summer.

Looking for a community or someone to grab coffee with who is in a similar life season? We’d love to connect with you and get to know you better! Below you will find a few people that can’t wait to meet you, shoot us an email so we can make a plan!

Tyler OJ Campus

Teresa Ator:

Bethanie Tayler:

Tyler UB Campus

Max Heller:

Chrisleigh Heller:

Lindale Campus

Molly Pontius:

Debra Kirby: