Dos and Don’ts of Being an Awesome Camp Parent


Kids away at sleepaway camp.School is out for summer, so it’s time for my two girls to go to overnight camp for a couple of weeks of swimming, sports, gaining independence, singing lots of songs, and making new friends that I hope will last a lifetime. 

I’ve been a camp parent for many years, and I’m also fortunate enough to work with over 600 camps in my professional life. You might say I know a thing or two about camp.

For those of you with children going to overnight camp this year, I wanted to share some thoughts on how you can be an awesome camp parent for both your child and the camp professionals taking care of them. 

DO prepare your child for the experience.

Going to camp is an exciting time for a child, but as with all new experiences, preparing them for what is ahead is always good. Share positive messages about camp with your child (even if you are feeling anxious about it) and explain what camp will be like. Let them know you will miss them, but that you know, they will have the best time at camp. Take the time to rewatch the camp video and explore the camp’s website and social media together.  

DO read the camp emails and parent handbook.

Camp professionals spend a lot of time creating the handbook with all the information you need to prepare your child (and you) for the camp experience. They also send tons of emails with MORE information. Please take the time to read these communications so you are up to date on all you need to know before camp begins.   

DON’T sneak cell phones or other items.

One of the best things about going to camp is the break from technology your child gets. Do not sneak cell phones into your child’s camp bag (or anything the camp has asked you to leave at home). When you break the rules, you send your child a message that it’s ok not to follow the rules.   

DON’T overpack. 

The camp provides a list of items needed, and of course, there will be some extras you will want to add, but overpacking and having too much stuff at camp is actually overwhelming for children. There is limited space in the bunk, and too many things can make it hard for campers to find the items they need.  

DON’T make pick-up deals.

Don’t make a deal with your child, saying you will pick them up if they are unhappy. If you do, you are sending a message to your child that you don’t believe they will have a successful summer. Let them know you are sure they will have fun and that they may have days that are hard but that you know they can work through them. 

DO trust the camp director to do their job.

Hopefully, you chose your child’s camp because you felt good about the way the camp is run and you feel a connection with the camp leadership team. While you will have your thoughts on who should be in your child’s bunk or what types of food should be served, parents should take a step back and let the camp director do their job.

DON’T call the camp office daily.

It’s natural to wonder how your child is doing at camp, but please refrain from calling the camp office with every thought you have. If you have an issue, please call the camp to discuss it, but if you are checking in on your child or having your own anxiety about your child being away, please don’t.

DON’T overanalyze online photos. 

It’s nice that camps post online photos of our kids so we can have a window into the camp day; however, do your best not to overanalyze each photo. Why is my child not smiling? Why is my child not in a photo her friends are in? Didn’t my kid wear that shirt two days ago? Remember that a photo is just a snapshot of a moment and doesn’t always reflect what you may be worried about.  

DON’T get upset about an unhappy letter home.

It’s hard not to spiral when you receive a letter that isn’t 100% positive, but likely, by the time you receive it, that moment they wrote about has already passed. So much happens in a day at camp, and not every moment will be perfect. If something is really bothering you about the letter, pick up the phone and call the camp.

DON’T start drama on a camp group chat.

It’s nice that the moms of campers like to connect and be on a group chat, but please don’t start drama. If something is bothering you about what is happening at camp, call the camp directly to discuss it.  

DO enjoy some time on your own. 

Camp is a gift you give your child, but an added bonus is that it leaves you some more time to yourself. Take this time to focus more on yourself, whether that’s taking that early morning yoga class you never get to try, spending time with your spouse, or having some quality time with a child who is still home with you. 

guest headshotJess Michaels Bernstein is the Director of Communications for the American Camp Association, NY and NJ. She lives right over the border of Westchester in Greenwich with her husband Mike and two daughters, who are counting down the days until camp. She loves all things summer camp, running, skiing, and beach time with her family and friends. This summer, as a camp parent, she plans to follow her own camp advice while her girls are at an overnight camp for seven weeks.