As the rush begins to plan for summer activities, you may find yourself looking into summer camp. You'll find a variety of summer camp options; part or full day; overnight or weekly, multi-activity or activity specific. For school-aged children there are many options and you may benefit from researching all of the opportunities based on the needs of your child. Because children develop at different rates, it is difficult to make a decision based on age or grade. There are extended camp choices available to children age 7 or older, however, you may want to evaluate if your 7 year old is ready to be away from home in an unfamiliar setting with people they don't know.

The best place to start is to interview your child. Ask your child if she or he is interested in a specific camp. If the answer is yes, it is time to explore the options. If the answer is no, listen to your child and explore alternative choices. Research the options first to make sure the location, price, activities and scheduling fit into your family plans. Plan to visit the camp with your child in advance to make sure it is a good fit.

As the time nears for the camp to begin, talk to your child about possible emotions that she or he may experience such as anxiety, sadness or loneliness. Balance this with positive feelings as well (such as excitement, a chance to learn new things, or meet new friends). Assuring them that you will drive to camp to rescue them if they do not like it is not recommended. This could be setting your child and yourself up for failure. Plan to attend any pre-camp introductory meetings or activities with your child to help make the transition fun and positive. Also, allow your child to participate in packing for camp to encourage personal ownership in the camp choice. For younger campers, pack a family picture or special object that you know will be comforting to them.

With these suggestions, summer camp should be a wonderful experience for your child!

• Mysti Rainwater is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Ahwatukee Foothills at 11011 S. 48th St., Suite 101. Contact her at (480) 223-8263 or counselor@mystirainwater.info.

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