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How do I prepare my child to spend the night away from home?

Michele Borba
Psychology
Summer is usually the time when we send our kids to stay at Grandmas, with their friends, or off to camp. So if you’re getting ready to send your child away for just the night or for a more extended time, here are some research-based pointers to help your child -- and you -- have a fun time and great memories.
  • Do a practice run. For a reluctant child, have the first sleepover be at your home. It sometimes helps if your child uses the same “security items” for a real sleepover at your home first. Or try having your child spend the night with Grandma and Grandpa or a special cousin.
  • Find a buddy. Any buddy! Research says kids always feel more secure away from home if they know at least one other child. It could be a child she knows from her hometown, or ask the camp counselor to give you an e-mail address or phone number of a similar-aged child as yours. Maybe they can connect before you drop her off.
  • Pack a few “security items.” A few packed items can make even the most anxious kid more comfortable. For instance: a flashlight if she fears the dark or staying in a strange house; a granola bar or sandwich; a sleeping bag with a rubber sheet tucked inside might help a bed wetter feel more comfortable just in case he has an accident; their own pillow or blanket; even a cell phone for reassurance that she can call you anytime if really needed. Think of what might make your child feel safer. Better yet, have your child think up what he needs to feel more at home.
  • Meet the counselors or parents. No matter how old your child is, do meet the camp counselors or parents face to face. You want to be sure they will be supervising the whole night, have your phone number handy, and clarify that if there are any problems you want to be called.
  • Show off the activities. Other than finding one buddy to “hang with” the next thing researchers say what alleviates homesickness is involvement in an activity (tennis, crafts, kayaking, swimming, beading … anything). If you can get your child excited about one activity he will be more likely to feel a little more comfortable. And he’ll have something to look forward to doing.
  • Have a positive send-off. Be cheerful and optimistic as you pack and get ready to go. Do wait until your child looks settled. Give her a big hug and kiss. Then leave. But researchers stress to curb homesickness: “Do not linger.”

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.