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Off to Camp! Your Child's First Trip Alone

Got Questions? Get Answers!

Q: My child is off to camp on his own. He is scheduled to be traveling as an unaccompanied minor on an airplane. He’s excited, but a little scared, too. (I must admit that I am, too!) What can I do to ensure a successful journey?

A: Think about it: This is a big step. Don’t treat it lightly. Prepare and organize as much in advance as you can. Cover all the bases. Make sure you check and double-check every part of the trip. When the adults at both ends of the trip are heads-up, everything will go smoothly.

Visit early – If possible, visit the airport or station in advance of the trip. (Going there to purchase tickets is often a valid reason.) When your child has visited in advance of the big trip, the event will seem less overwhelming.

Get all the facts – Talk with officials from the organization your child is traveling with. Ask questions about their rules for unaccompanied minors. Ask about their procedures for late arrivals, or what they do if the designated adult is not there on time for pickup. Make sure you’re comfortable with the information you’re given.

Talk about it – Discuss as much of the trip in advance as possible with your child. Cover as many of the details as possible. It can be frightening for a child to find herself in an unexpected situation, such as having to change planes in the middle of the journey.

Keep ‘em busy – Assist your child in packing a carry-on bag or large backpack filled with snacks, juice, gum, books and activities to pass the time. Even a 12-year-old can become bored, nervous and disruptive with nothing to alleviate the boredom and ward off feelings of insecurity.

Cover all your bases – Make sure your child has a variety of telephone numbers of people at both ends of the journey, along with specific instructions on how to make phone calls from the terminal. An early arrival can leave a child sitting alone for a long period of time waiting for someone to greet her. If your child is aware that this could happen, and knows how to handle it, she’ll be calm if the situation does occur.

Stay positive – Put on a confident face. Let your child know you believe this will be a fun and interesting adventure for him.

Elizabeth is a mother of four, and author of the best-selling No-Cry Solution series on topics such as sleep, discipline, picky eating and potty training. She is known worldwide as the voice of practical, respectful parenting. Visit her blog at elizabethpantly.com. (Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. From Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips by Elizabeth Pantley.)  

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