By Alexandra Schuur
Primary School Counselor
KIS International School
Residential trips are wonderful experiences that help to develop your child’s social and emotional skills. It also provides them with the opportunity to develop a sense of independence and build their self-confidence.
At KIS the residential trips are aimed to provide your child with unique opportunities that allow them learn about their environment, develop specific skill sets, and grow as an individual. However, because these wonderful experiences are happening in a unique environment away from home and home comforts, some children may experience “pre-residential jitters”. They may feel a bit nervous about the idea of being away from home for a few nights. Especially if this trip is their first experience sleeping away from home.
This is completely normal, and we are here to support you and your child in processing any feelings of anxiety and preparing for this unique experience.
What can you do at home?
If your child is experiencing pre-camp jitters, there is a list below of conversations of activities you can do to help them prepare. Please do note, that it helps to follow your child’s lead in these cases. There is no need for you to have nightly conversations about Residential with your child, if they are not expressing any concern. This could spark unnecessary worries on their part. Don’t get me wrong, of course you should talk to your child about their residential trip. Just try to follow their lead in determining exactly how much preparation they need before they leave.
Preparation Conversations and Activities:
Mark the Residential Trip days on your family calendar, surrounded by other fun activities and events. This will help to put the trip in perspective and encourage your child to see it as ‘just another’ fun experience they get to have.
Plan a sleepover for your child at a friend’s house. This will help them to become familiar with the experience of sleeping away from home.
Plan an “in-house” sleep-away experience in your own home! Your child can build a fort in the living room and sleep there for one night. You can provide them with a flashlight to read a book and a fun evening snack to make the experience novel and exciting. This is a gentle way of letting them know they can sleep in “unfamiliar” places.
Discuss all of the exciting and fun experiences they will have at residential. Brainstorm games they can play with their friends on the bus, or songs they can teach each other. So much of camp is a social experience, focusing on the fun your child with have with their friends and classmates helps to relieve possible anxiety.
Discuss “emergency” situations. If your child is concerned about specific emergency situations, talk with them about this. Discuss how the series of events might go, and what resources are in place to help them in a situation of need.
Remind them that feeling “homesick” is completely normal, and often, the feeling goes away as soon as the next activity starts.
Avoid packing expensive items that your child will worry about losing or breaking.
Go through their packing list with them- help them to take charge in packing their own bag, while you supervise.
Pack user-friendly toiletries (i.e. do not pack a bar of soap, which can be messy, but rather a small bottle of shower gel).
Pack a “home” piece if your child is especially nervous about being homesick. This should be a simple and inexpensive item like a picture of your family, or a pillow case with mom’s perfume sprayed on it. These little tokens can comfort children in a moment of struggle.
Instill confidence in them- let them know you are confident that they can do this! They are growing up and ready for such an amazing experience. Tell them that you are proud of them for becoming so independent and self-sufficient. Knowing that you believe in them will help your child to feel secure and approach this great experience with pride and excitement.
Parent Pre-Residential Jitters:
Sometimes, it is not the children, but the parents who are nervous about a child’s first trip away from home. This too, is perfectly normal. If you are experiencing anxiety about this upcoming trip, please speak to your child’s teacher. They can help to put your concerns at ease. It is important that parents do not pass their own worries or anxieties onto their children, as this can give a child an unnecessary sense of insecurity.
All in all, Residential trips are wonderful excursions that provide children with unique experiences and help to develop a multitude of skills and abilities. Please make sure you encourage your child and celebrate their opportunity for independence and fun!