But whatever you do, try not to show your concern to your child. "Don't let your anxiety come through. Deal with that on your own," McCready says. As Borba puts it: "Keep yourself calm because your kid is feeding off of you." And when you do say goodbye, make it a quick and matter-of-fact one, she says. "You can cry in your own car."
Remember, too, "every child's going to have little pangs" of homesickness, she says. (According to Smith, only 1 to 7 percent have homesickness that requires intervention). Talk to the counselor before rushing to rescue your child, Borba advises. "If it doesn't work at all, and he's shattered, then so be it. There's always next year."
3. Celebrate unplugging. If the camp doesn't allow cellphones, don't flout the rules. "Trust the [camp leadership] that they're going to do the right thing for your kid," McCready says. Have everyone in the family write something in an old-fashioned letter, she says, and send it so it gets to camp by the time your kid does. The correspondence provides both parent and child with a rare and special memento. "Don't send emails to the camp counselor," which can suggest a lack of confidence in the child's ability to handle the experience, she says.
4. Make this time count for you. You know that thing you want to do that you can't seem to find time for? Here's your chance. "Organize your closet, or take a vacation or if you have other children at home, that's an opportunity to do special time with them," McCready says.
5. Remember why you're doing this.
According to Thompson, there are certain things parents can't give their kids – such as happiness, self-esteem or friends. And there are other things that "the magic of camp" provides: social skills, leadership training and new relationships with counselors, kids, nature and even oneself. Among the hundreds of campers he interviewed, the most frequent comment he heard about camp was: "I can really be myself here."
If you need something more concrete, McCready suggests making a list of everything you want your kids to get out of the camping experience, and fix it to the fridge for regular reassurance.