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Getting Ready for Sleepaway Camp

Think ahead about health and safety – and think positive, too.

When your child will be going to sleepaway camp for the first time, he or she may be excited or wary about the prospect of being so far from home. You may be nervous that you won’t be able to give him his medicine or keep an eye on her in the pool. But with the proper mindset, both of you can be reassured about your child’s upcoming experience, according to pediatrician Jay Lovenheim, DO, FAAP, owner of Lovenheim Pediatrics in West Orange and a member of the Barnabas Health Medical Group. His advice:

  • INCLUDE YOUR CHILD IN THE PLANNING PROCESS. It’s less daunting to try something that you’ve helped to plan. “If you start by involving the kids in choosing and getting ready for camp, making them active participants in getting all the supplies together, talking about it in a very positive way, they’ll look forward to it,” says Dr. Lovenheim.
  • ADDRESS FEARS. If your child has never slept away from home, try scheduling sleepovers at Grandma’s or a friend’s house. And don’t dismiss his worries about homesickness or not making friends. Empathize, but remind him that before he started school, he didn’t know his friends yet, either.
    “Turn it into something to look forward to, instead of to fear,” says Dr. Lovenheim. “Say, ‘I can’t want to hear about all the people you’re going to meet!’”

  • DON’T LEAVE MEDICAL PREPARATIONS UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. Avoid the rush: Fill out paperwork early, and make a pediatrician appointment well in advance for a physical exam and to get proof of vaccinations. “You usually have to have an exam within the 12 months prior to the child’s going to camp,” says Dr. Lovenheim. “For any children with complex or chronic medical issues, it’s recommended to have an exam within six months.” If your child takes medication, you’ll need to complete paperwork and send medicine before camp starts. “Every camp is going to have a different policy, but a lot of camps require the medicine to come in a labeled prescription bottle,” says Dr. Lovenheim.

  • ASK HEALTH AND SAFETY QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE. If your child has a food allergy, talk to camp staff about their policies well before the session’s start date. “Camps go out of their way to accommodate kids with food allergies, or even sensitivities, and have rules in place to prevent cross-contamination,” says Dr. Lovenheim. Also, be sure to ask about water-safety policies. “Camps assess your children to make sure that they’re placed in the appropriate skill level and watched,” says Dr. Lovenheim. “Based on their skill level, they’re given rules of where they can and can’t swim.”

Finally, check to see whether the camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. Their requirements often exceed state licensing requirements, and accreditation is a sign that a camp follows up-to-date health and safety practices. Visit www.ACAcamps.org or call 800.428.CAMP.

To find a pediatrician at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, call 1.888.724.7123, or visit our website.