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How Do I Get My Anxious Child Prepared for Overnight Summer Camp?

We’re not promising that an overnight summer camp will immediately provide your child with an abundance of confidence for the rest of his or her life. However, we are confident that, in age-appropriate doses, experiences like camp will present your child with opportunities for healthy development. 

There’s a way I usually describe my time serving as an overnight summer camp counselor. I don’t start with the meals or the activities. I don’t begin with stories of how a particular camper hit me in the face with pie for the fifth time in one week. Nor do I describe the heat (I had the honor and privilege of braving the summer heat at a camp in Texas).

Instead, I begin with a verse from the end of the book of John. The apostle writes, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose the world itself could not contain the amount of books that would be written” (John 21:25).  

Overnight summer camp is one of those experiences that if every moment were written, there wouldn’t be enough books to contain the stories, emotions, and memories. This is true for campers as much as it is for counselors. Yet, not every emotion or memory is positive. One of the strongest and most common emotions that affects counselors and campers alike is the anxiety of overnight summer camp.

Helping your child learn how to conquer and overcome his or her anxiety about camp will depend on your preparation for the experience. It starts with identifying some common fears your child might experience. Then, figure out how to best strengthen his or her confidence to enjoy summer camp so that they return overflowing with their own stories, memories, and experiences.

– Jackson Greer

Common Fears of Overnight Summer Camp

Intentionally preparing your child for this experience will strengthen their confidence to attend camp. Your relationship and eventual re-connection after camp will be that much more rewarding as well.

For campers, the anxiety of overnight summer camp comes in many forms. In some cases, your child might express anxiety about summer camp before you begin packing. For other kids, the anxiety creeps up the moment that you pull into camp to drop them off.

The tricky parts of navigating overnight summer camp begin with the question: should my child even go at all? Although camp can seem fun through promotional videos and pictures, a week away from home can be terrifying for a child of any age.

Beyond that, here are some common fears you or your child might be feeling.

overnight summer camp

If you or your child express these fears or others, know that you are not alone. Having fears about attending overnight summer camp is completely normal. However, your preparation for camp can create a path for your child to enjoy the experience and overcome their fears.

overnight summer camp

– Jackson Greer

Benefits of Overnight Summer Camp

Discovering the benefits of summer camp likely depends on your child’s personality and interests. There’s good news. You’re not the only one who’s concerned about how your child might fit in at summer camp.

Most summer camps emphasize a wide range of activities that appeal to a variety of children’s unique personalities and interests. There’s also a good chance your child will experience a healthy blend of comfortable activities and more adventurous ones as well.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your child builds his or her dependency on you the more often you take over and do things for them. Opportunities like overnight summer camp present situations for your kids to discover their own capabilities.

Being away from home for an extended amount of time can help your child also explore other interests and skills. Depending on the type of camp your child will attend, there could be countless opportunities for them to learn a new skill or try something new.

– Jackson Greer

Preparing Your Child

When sending your child to an overnight summer camp for the first time, it is important to consider their personality. If your child is naturally fearful and worried, you may have to prepare them differently than a child that is confident and adventurous. No matter their personality, you will want to give some form of preparation, so they know what to expect. However, your worried child may need some extra help.

overnight summer camp

Make a “Home” Bag

If you are sending your child to an overnight camp, making a bag filled with reminders from home can help give them a sense of calm when they are in a new environment. Fill the bag with things like their favorite stuffed animal, a book you read with them, and their favorite snack. Put a picture of your family in there as well so they can see you when they feel scared.

Leave Notes

Don’t underestimate the power of words. Leave your child notes in their overnight bag to remind them how much you love them. Write notes for them to open when they are scared or fearful. Your words, even if they are just written on a page, can make all the difference if they are feeling upset or worried while at camp.

Pray Before Camp

In the weeks leading up to camp, pray with them daily. Pray with them during everyday tasks and before they go to bed. Ask your child what their worries are and pray over those directly. Give your child the opportunity to pray as well. Remind them that you love them, but the Father loves them more and He hears the cries of their heart. 

Let the Camp Know

If your child is naturally anxious, prepare the camp beforehand. Call the camp ahead of time to see who your child’s camp counselor will be. Give your camp counselor a rundown of your child’s personality. If the camp allows you to give a written bio of your child when signing up, be detailed! Camp counselors don’t know your child like you do. If you give them details on your child’s worries, the counselor can prepare and pray before your child arrives.

Give Them an Out

Ultimately, if your child is not enjoying camp, remind them you are able and willing to pick them up early. The best thing you can do for your child is not shame them into staying at camp if they don’t want to be there. Let your child know beforehand you are here for them. If they need anything, you are just a call away. This will not only show your child you care, but it will remind them they are safe, and you are willing to get them should they want to leave.

– Georgia Dunham

Christian Summer Camp

Like any summer camp, Christian camps can have their faults. Still, there are many great things a Christian overnight summer camp can offer your child. Whether you send them to overnight camp with your home church or an independent Christian camp, your child will have the opportunity to hear the gospel from counselors and program staff.

In the three summers I served at a summer camp, I saw the Lord move and work in mighty ways. My first summer I worked on the media team. As I walked throughout camp, I witnessed campers having fun and hearing the word of God. I captured the sweet moments of campers accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior with their counselors. 

As a counselor, I shared the good news and saw the Lord work in the hearts of campers. Some even came to know the Lord and I got to rejoice with them! 

My second summer, I met campers with difficult backgrounds. During camp, I watched them have the opportunity to be kids for the first time and truly enjoy life. The Lord used this Christian camp as a refuge for campers with difficult situations. My third summer, I spoke in front of all of the campers, and by the Holy Spirit, campers decided to surrender their lives to the Lord. 

Though your anxious child may have reservations about going to an overnight camp, sending him or her to a Christian camp has the benefit of well-trained counselors who want to share the Gospel with your child. There are fun activities, silly chants, and great snacks, but above that the Lord uses the staff to draw your children to Himself.

– Georgia Dunham

Parenting Beyond Summer Camp

At its core, parenting is a journey of leading your kids from dependence to independence. We’re not promising that an overnight summer camp will immediately provide your child with an abundance of confidence for the rest of his or her life. However, we are confident that, in age-appropriate doses, experiences like camp will present your child with opportunities for healthy development. 

When your child returns from camp, we’re not sure exactly what sorts of stories they’ll bring back. But we do know they’ll have stories—more than a single book can contain. That’s the unique beauty of overnight summer camp. Your job? Be the best listener and encourager your child will ever have. 

– Jackson Greer

One Final Thought

It’s a heartbreaking reality that summer camp isn’t always the safest place for kids. Unfortunately, summer camp often creates an environment for sexual abuse of kids to occur. By no means do we want to scare you or your family in saying this. If you or your child is a victim of sexual abuse, know that we support you and our heart breaks for your experience.

We hope that you continue to be aware of some dangers that exist in an overnight summer camp environment. More importantly, we want to empower you to proactively educate your kids about appropriate and inappropriate behaviors before they attend a summer camp.

While some summer camps excel in sexual abuse prevention training, other camps do not. It’s worth knowing that some camps take a proactive approach by coaching their counselors on how to report suspected sexual abuse during camp. More specifically, some camps discuss inappropriate touch with campers upon their arrival so that they know how to report incidents while they are at camp.

Because of this, it might be necessary for you to have a conversation with your child about appropriate and inappropriate touch before they leave for overnight summer camp. Also, this can be a great conversation for you to remind your child that you are there for them and you always believe them. Know that you can always screen the camp staff before you drop your child off to learn about their protocol for sexual abuse prevention. Finally, if you have any other questions or need more resources about sexual abuse you can click on our Focus on the Family content here.

– Georgia Dunham & Jackson Greer

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Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you! 

Focus on the Family

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