Is It Safe To Send My Child To Summer Camp This Year?
Hi! My name is Sara Zaidi. I am a Child and Adolescent Therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over fifteen years of clinical experience, I help parents navigate through the challenges of childrearing. I have two kids and live in Newport, Jersey City.
I have had more kids come to see me for anxiety and depression in the past year than in all my years of practice combined. The disruption of routine, the pressure of online school, isolation from friends, being cooped up at home with family, and the loss of loved ones has taken an immense toll on children.
With the pandemic restrictions in place and fear of picking up the virus, outdoor play and playdates have been significantly reduced for most children. Aside from building strength, improving coordination, and boosting metabolism, physical play helps reduce anxiety and improve mood. Now that more people have been vaccinated and the weather is getting better, hopefully, children will be able to spend more time outdoors playing with friends.
With summer planning underway, I’ve been asked by several parents if it’s safe to enroll their child in summer camp. While it didn’t seem to be a pediatric disease early on, there are new viral strains that have been shown to have mild effects on children, therefore, sending your child to camp has to be an individual decision based on your family’s circumstances.
The following are some things to consider as you debate what the right thing for you and your child is:
1) Think about is the health of the family members living in the home. At the very least, the elderly and the more vulnerable (i.e., those with underlying conditions) should be vaccinated. While being vaccinated does not eliminate the possibility of getting the virus, it does reduce the impact of the disease significantly.
2) There is no guarantee that the children won’t be exposed to the virus and it’s important to think about your ability to quarantine. Would your circumstances allow you to quarantine for up to two weeks if necessary? If you’re not working or working from home this may be easier, but if you’re an essential worker this could affect your job. Also, if your child were to get sick, is there someone who could take time off to tend to them for the duration of the illness?
3) Look for a camp where you feel safe sending your child. Find out what precautions will be taken during the course of the summer, ask questions, and assess if it measures up to the CDC recommendations. Outdoor camps where children are grouped in small pods are ideal.
Regardless of whether you send your child to camp this summer, remember that physical activity for children is critical for their emotional and mental well-being.
Questions to ask before deciding if you should send your child to summer camp:
If you’re considering sending your child to summer camp this year here are a few things to look for:
- Will the children be mostly indoors or outdoors? If it’s indoors, what is the ventilation like? Is there plexiglass separating them from each other especially during meals?
- Is the water system safe and have steps been taken to reduce the risk of Legionnaire’s Disease?
- Are the children grouped into small cohorts? How will they be kept separate?
- Is there a staggering pick-up and drop-off schedule?
- What screening measures will be taken for staff?
- What screening measures will be taken for children and what protocol will be followed if there has been exposure? How will this be communicated to families?
- Is there a designated nurse or staff member who will be responsible for healthcare during camp hours?
- Are masks mandatory indoors?
- Are there sanitizer and handwashing stations conveniently located throughout the premises?
- What are the safety rules for communal/shared spaces? Are there appropriate social distancing guidelines?
- How frequently are high-touch surfaces being disinfected?
- What are the sanitization procedures if the equipment is being shared between groups?
- Will the camp be providing lunch? If so, will it be individually wrapped or boxed? What are the precautions being taken in the kitchen that prepares the food?
- If there is a bus service, how will social distancing be maintained during travel? Will the bus windows remain open?
- If field trips are planned, what locations are being considered, and what safety protocols will be put in place?
Camps with outdoor space where children can be separated by cohorts are ideal. However, if you choose a camp with an indoor setup, be sure to ask about the safety measures they are taking so you and your child can have a worry-free summer!
Preparing your child to go to camp post the pandemic:
Children are now doing hybrid learning so they are accustomed to following the safety protocols at school. However, there are still many remote learners and the pandemic still looms large as Hudson County remains one of the areas with high infection rates. As you consider enrolling your child in summer camp, you may have to prepare them for what’s to come.
Most kids look forward to summer and summer camp because it provides a break from school and the academic pressure. But with all the safety measures in place, the camp might look a little bit different this year. For one thing, they may have to wear masks despite the summer heat. This is difficult, especially for younger children or those that get hot quickly.
Talk to them about telling their camp counselors if they need a break and help them find a safe, socially distanced spot where they can take their mask off for a few minutes.
A big part of summer camps is field trips. Some of those might have to be canceled or you may not feel comfortable allowing your children to go. Talking to children in advance can help manage expectations. Acknowledge their disappointment, explain your concerns or the thinking behind the cancellations, and emphasize that it’s for their safety.
Some children may expect to see friends from previous summers; if you can learn about who the other campers are in advance or check with their friends’ parents to see if they’ve enrolled, you may be able to help your child adjust to the change.
If your child hasn’t returned to school yet, there may be anxious about leaving the house. Preparing them ahead of time and setting up a daily routine and then get on with their day might be helpful. If you sense separation anxiety, then leaving them with your partner might help. On the day of camp, reassure them that you will be waiting for them when they return and look forward to hearing about their day.
Despite all the pandemic precautions, hopefully, you and your children can enjoy the summer and make the most of it!
About The Author:
Sara Zaidi is a Child and Adolescent Therapist and the creator of Building Healthy Minds and Happy Families. With advanced degrees in psychology and mental health and over fifteen years of clinical experience, Sara helps parents navigate through the challenges of childrearing. Read more parenting strategies and visit http://www.sara-zaidi.com/ to learn about her work.