It’s your child’s first summer to go to sleep-away camp.

You know that going to camp is a rite of passage. That he’ll tell camp stories for years to come. That those weeks of sleep-away camp will turn into a wonderful childhood memory.

But still, you worry. He seems so young. What if he gets homesick? How will he manage without you? And besides that, how will you manage without him?

Homesickness is a big part of that first trip to sleep-away camp. But feeling it – and overcoming it – is a healthy part of growing up.

So don’t freak out and put off camp until next summer. Here are some tips for surviving the separation.

What to do before camp

-Get your child involved. If you want to send your child to camp, make her a part of that decision. Don’t just sign her up; instead, show her the options and let her help you choose the right camp.

-Do your homework. Before you commit to a camp, get important questions answered. A good camp should be able to answer your questions about activities, staff qualifications, dietary and medical needs and the social atmosphere.

-Look at pictures in brochures and on the camp’s Web site. Find out about daily activities, and walk your child through a typical day of camp. Find out the details about sleeping arrangements, meals, all the little worries that might be growing in your child’s mind – and in yours. Knowing what to expect makes a big difference.

What to do during camp

-Stay in touch. Most camps don’t allow regular phone calls. But do send letters, care packages or whatever the camp will allow. They will remind your child you’re still thinking about him.

-Don’t make a bad feeling worse. If you’re feeling anxiety, don’t show it – that’ll just make things worse for your child.

-Don’t make a deal. Your child may call or send a letter begging you to come pick her up. Don’t do it and don’t say, “If you’re still feeling this way tomorrow, we’ll come and get you.” Because as long as there’s a way out, your child will never make up her mind to try to adjust to camp. But if she knows she has to stay to the end, she’ll develop coping skills – she’ll get out there, make a friend and overcome her homesickness. And then she will be able to make all those happy camp memories.

-Remember that anxiety is normal. So wait it out. Be sympathetic but don’t give in. Homesickness goes away. And your child will get better and stronger in the process.

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