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I'm so ready to get out of this house!

Preparation is the key to a successful summer at camp

Millions of children will get their first taste of independence at a resident or day camp this summer. More than 12,000 camps across the country are preparing to give children the experience of a lifetime and parents should be doing the same. Preparation is the key to a successful summer at camp. Not only does a child need to be prepared, parents also need to prepare themselves.

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"Sending your child away to camp is a major milestone for most parents-one that is often marked by excitement, anticipation, and perhaps even some anxiety," states Bob Ditter, licensed clinical social worker, specializing in child, adolescent, and family therapy. Parents think that if their child is far away from home, he or she will be more anxious. In reality, it is usually the parents who suffer concern for having their child away from home. Most children come into the camp setting and immediately begin to develop a support network-and the distance from home simply doesn't matter. "One of the most important things parents can do to help prepare children for camp is to talk with them before they go," says Ditter.

Ditter makes the following suggestions to help families prepare for camp:

Prepare for camp together: Decisions about camp - like where to go and what to pack - should be a joint venture, keeping in mind the child's maturity. If a child feels a part of the decision-making process, his/her chances of having a positive experience are improved.

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• Talk about concerns: As the first day of camp nears, some children experience uneasiness about going away. Encourage children to talk about these feelings. Communicate confidence in the child's ability to handle being away from home.

• Have realistic expectations: Camp, like the rest of life, has high and low points. Not every moment will be filled with wonder and excitement. Encourage children to have a reasonable and realistic view of camp. Discuss both the ups and downs they may experience.

• Ask the hard questions: Ask the camp director as many questions as you need to before camp begins in order to feel comfortable.

For more information: Read Bob Ditter's complete article "Talking With Your Child About Their First Time at Camp."

When families make the decision to offer their children the benefits of a camp experience, they are giving them the opportunity to grow and develop in a caring, positive environment that is safe and fun. With careful planning and preparation, a camp experience can be an experience of a lifetime.

The American Camping Association helps families find ACA-accredited camps that can serve almost any interest, ability, budget, age, and personal schedule through a widely used Online Camp Database and an annually published Guide to ACA-Accredited Camps. Visit their website  for a complete listing of questions to ask, what to pack, and more information on preparing you and your child for camp. Parents can also speak to representatives for advice on finding the right camp by calling 800-428-CAMP.