Parents’ Guide to Surviving Away Camp

300-campKids’ Corner | By Patrick Biron –

For over a decade, I directed and coordinated camp programs all across the state of Texas. While all camps are hugely beneficial to kids, away camps in particular serve as an important catalyst in their social, emotional, physical and mental development.

Over hundreds of camps, I learned just as much about the “camp parent” as I did the “camp kid.” So, if your child is destined to sleep away camp this summer, here are some things to keep in mind from someone who has overseen nearly 10,000 kids at camp.

1. Pack old things. I can’t tell you the number of times that parents pack their kids brand new hiking boots, a favorite shirt or socks needed for baseball season only to find those items cause blisters, get lost or return a stained and muddy mess. Oh, and it is all going to smell when it gets home. Even your kid. Just accept this, and get out the hose.

2. Don’t send a cell phone. Unless the camp requests that you send one, don’t do it. It’s natural to want your child to contact you if they are hurt, but most camps don’t even have reliable cell service, if any at all. Don’t lure your child into thinking they will be able to contact you “any time they want” only to find out the city-slicker kid has never heard of “no bars.” This can literally ruin a kid’s experience. Beyond that, encourage your child to talk to the adults in charge of them first and not just always straight to you. Counselors really do want to keep your kid safe and healthy, and while they can’t have eyes on them 100 percent of the time, their job is not possible if your child doesn’t talk to them about what happens, when it happens.

3. Don’t stalk photos. Our society is so connected and instant with social media, we have become accustomed to our kids posting 15 status updates a day and seeing every smiling selfie. This sets an expectation for parents that is unreasonable and impossible when at camp. Just as away camp gives kids an opportunity to “unplug,” it does that just as much for parents. If you spend six hours a day like you’re on CSI, searching every photo the camp posts for a facial expression that can cue you in on your child’s mood or counting how many photos they are in compared to other kids, you are expecting them to have a bad time instead of expecting them to have a good time. Your kids are smart and will pick up on and feed off of this. If you don’t believe they can make it through camp and have a good time, it will be nearly impossible for them to have faith in themselves.


The kids are alright. In over 10 years of camp, with nearly 10,000 kids in my care, I have never seen a child who had zero fun at camp. I also have never seen a child who has nothing but 100 percent sunshine and rainbows, but that is the beauty and importance of the experience. Your child grows most by not avoiding discomfort or challenge but by undergoing and then overcoming them. You have to put in perspective that if your child seems homesick when you talk to them over the phone, that’s because the act of thinking about home suddenly reminds them that they aren’t there. No child is homesick when having a water balloon fight. I promise, it’s practically science.

Camp is hard, both for parents and kids. But, it is an incredible, important and worthwhile experience for both!