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Published May 21, 2012, 11:30 PM

Prepping tips for a successful summer camp for kids

If you’re thinking of sending your children to overnight camp this summer or you’ve already registered them, there’s plenty you can do to help them get ready for this exciting experience, says child psychologist Michael G. Thompson, Ph.D. and author of “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” ($15) and “Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow” ($12.98).

By: Andrea Pyros, www.RetailMeNot.com, INFORUM

If you’re thinking of sending your children to overnight camp this summer or you’ve already registered them, there’s plenty you can do to help them get ready for this exciting experience, says child psychologist Michael G. Thompson, Ph.D. and author of “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” ($15) and “Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow” ($12.98).

It all starts with your enthusiasm and confidence for them, says Thompson, who tells me that “the biggest problem with camps today is not homesickness – it’s childsickness.” He says that we spend so much time with our children that we’re not used to being apart and are often unwilling to let our children go off without us. “Parents aren’t getting it,” Thompson explains. “Kids need to get away from you.”

STEP 1: STAY ON MESSAGE

All kids are nervous before their first time at sleepaway camp, but if you communicate to them that you know they will have fun and do fine, they’ll pick up on that and internalize that message. Tell them that yes, they might be a bit homesick, but they’ll get through it, and you know they’ll have a wonderful time. Don’t undermine them with your own anxieties and concerns. Be positive!

STEP 2: GET FAMILIAR

If it’s possible to visit the camp ahead of time, great. But because most families can’t make that happen, many camps have tons of photos and videos available on their sites for future campers and their parents to check out. Go online together and talk about it. Thompson says that if your child views a video a few times, “you’ve got a camper.”

STEP 3: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Our expert says that the greatest preparation for sleepaway camp is sleepovers with friends or family – ideally for a full weekend instead of just one night. If your child is fine for two nights without you, he or she can certainly do a week of camp.

STEP 4: DO A CALENDAR RUN-THROUGH

Well before camp, pick a date on the calendar and tell your child you’ll check it every day together, so they know what two weeks feels like. Talk about it each day, with comments like, “Now if you were at camp, this would be day three.”

STEP 5: PRACTICE LETTER WRITING

Your child probably isn’t much of a letter writer in day-to-day life, but postcards to and from camp are a lovely tradition. Encourage writing a letter to a parent or relative and mail it off. Then wait for a reply – just like your child will do come camp time.

STEP 6: SEND THEM WITH THE APPROPRIATE GEAR

The camp will send you a list of what to pack. But to get you started, here are five products that are popular with camp-savvy families we know:

Order iron-on labels from Mabel’s Labels (40 labels for $21 at www.mabelslabels.com). With a ton of cute designs to choose from and easy application, your kids’ clothes will come back home with them.

Make it easy for him to write you with Send-n-Seal Camp Stationery ($7.95 for 20 sheets and 24 stickers) from CampBound.com. One mom suggested packing a clipboard like this Sparco Translucent Clipboard ($2) from DiscountOfficeItems.com to make letter writing more comfortable.

It’ll be handy for them to have all their toiletries in a quick-drying Saltwater Canvas Black Mesh Tote/Shower Caddy ($15.97) from Amazon. Cross your fingers they actually do shower and don’t return covered in a thick layer of mud and squished bugs.

L.L.Bean’s Bean Canteen with Sport Top ($12.99 at http://www.llbean.com) holds 27 ounces of water and can be monogrammed for an additional $8.

Andrea Pyros lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, where she raises her two kids and writes for http://www.RetailMeNot.com

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