Primary school camps conjure up thoughts of happy times, lots of laughter and magical memories made with friends. But for young children the idea of spending the night away from home can cause very real anxiety, especially children with a history of bad dreams or bed-wetting. To ensure a successful camp, teachers and camp staff must work to minimise anxiety and prepare for night-time difficulties.
Here are some tips that will help you to be prepared:
There are many ways teachers can help children who fear being away at an overnight camp. Our top tip is to make students as familiar as possible with the camp facilities and what to expect. Ideally book a time to bring students to the camp for an advance visit. If distance makes this impossible, spend some time on the camp website exploring the facilities and activities.
Remember that parents can be anxious too, and parental anxiety can be disquieting for students. Make sure parents are well informed about the camp and the activities planned and encourage parents to talk about the camp at home.
For more ideas on review our 6 Tips for Preventing School Camp Anxiety.
Even with the best preparation, there may still be children who suffer anxiety once they arrive at camp. It can be a good idea to talk about feelings in the early stage of the camp. What are students excited or worried about? What’s been surprising? It helps students to see that others have worries too. Try brainstorming ideas for overcoming fears and concerns as a group.
Research has shown about one-quarter of children have at least one nightmare every week, which means there is a high likelihood a child in camp will suffer from night terrors. When preparing for camp, it’s a good idea to add a cuddly toy or other comfort idea to the suggested packing list. There’s nothing like a bit of familiarity to ease a child’s fears.
Darkness can elevate fears. Make sure children bring a torch and have it readily available before they go to sleep. You can also consider using a night light in the camp bunk rooms so children won’t awake to total darkness.
Make sure children know it is okay to ask for help. Explain that asking for help shows maturity. Reframe it as a sign of strength, not weakness. Make sure students know where teachers and camp staff can be found at night and give permission for them to seek help even after lights out. If a child does come looking for you following a bad dream, sit with the child and offer words of reassurance.
Approximately 19% of children between the ages of five and twelve years of age experience bedwetting issues, so this can be a concern at a primary school camp. The most important thing to remember is that bed wetting can be devastatingly embarrassing for the student and must be handled with sensitivity.
As part of preparing the class for camp, you can talk to students about the fact that sometimes accidents happen if you’re in a strange bed or exhausted from a big day. Talking openly about the subject can help take some of the secrecy and shame from the subject. Encourage parents to have private conversations about the subject at home.
Find out from parents if there is any history of bed-wetting problems. If you know this is a concern, encourage parents to pack wipes, bed pads or pull up pants, plus an extra set of pyjamas just in case. At camp, you can discreetly place a bed pad or pull up pants in the sleeping bag of the child, along with a plastic bag to inconspicuously dispose of the pad or pants. You can also arrange to wake the student earlier, so he or she can be first to shower and dress for the day, with more privacy.
Before bedtime make sure that all students are oriented to their new surroundings, know where the toilets are and have a torch at the ready.
DON’T FORGET: THE CAMP CONCIERGE IS HERE TO HELP!
School camp facilities run primary school camps week in, week out, so the camp staff have seen it all. If this is your first time running a primary school camp talk to our Camp Concierge, Molly. She can help you to prepare, as well as providing assistance throughout the camp to ensure that students have fun and feel safe.