Summer sports camps -- or any type of camp for that matter -- can be a very intimidating environment, especially for children who have never attended one before. And regardless of how many camps a child has attended, the first day can still be nerve-racking.
It's not uncommon for kids to claim they don't feel well, very similar to that first day of school. Butterflies whip around uncontrollably, causing nausea, loss of appetite, sweating and wanting absolutely nothing to do with the first day of camp -- no matter how much mom and dad paid.
I was no different. But my mom always knew just the right way to handle those jitters and somehow managed to get me to camp with few tears and even an appetite by lunchtime.
She didn't get upset -- although I'd guess it was tearing her up inside to see me so upset -- and she didn't yell. She acted like being nervous was perfectly normal. She even told me stories about how she used to get nervous anytime she had to go somewhere for the first time.
Forcing your child to eat breakfast only makes it worse. I went to camp breakfast-less for those first days every summer and somehow survived. Try to get your child to drink a glass of juice, which will at least get something in his stomach. Or let him choose what to eat. Somehow a Pop-Tart on a queasy stomach sounds much better than scrambled eggs and sausage or syrup-lathered pancakes. (Be prepared to cook a full-course breakfast on day two, hopefully.)
Assuming that friends will be there, remind your child of this and how they are probably nervous, too. You might even suggest a phone call to a friend just for reassurance that everyone is nervous and they'll all get through it together (including the parents).
At the end of the first day, remember that the second day might not be much better and help prepare your child for that, too. Remind him that if he is nervous again, just to think back to the first day and how once he got to camp, the day went just fine. There is no guarantee that this will work, but at least it's better than pretending nerves won't reappear.
As parents, it's important that we remember the first day might be a tough one. But just like that first day of school, everyone will get through it. The trick is doing it with the least amount of stress on the player and parent.
Next youth sports column: Your camper comes home and declares, "I hate camp and I'm not going back." How do you react? What can you do?
Jon Buzby's columns appear in newspapers and magazines around the country as well as numerous websites. Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.