There's horseback riding and cannonballs into lakes, campfire songs and counselors whose stories are unforgettable. Summer camp teaches socialization and team-building skills, but first, the kids must leave home to get there. And sometimes that's the tricky part.

There's horseback riding and cannonballs into lakes, campfire songs and counselors whose stories are unforgettable. Summer camp teaches socialization and team-building skills, and helps children create an identity.

But first, the kids must leave home to get there. And sometimes that's the tricky part, said David Dagg, director of clinical development at the Center for Balanced Living in Worthington.

"It's normal to see some tears or restlessness," said Dagg, who worked at a children's summer camp for seven years, "or for the child to say they don't want to go."

Dagg recommends that parents sit down and talk to their children about their fears before leaving for camp. He also recommends giving campers a transition object, like a family photo, to remind them how much they're loved.

It's also normal, he noted, for children to be afraid of going away from home for the first time.

What's not normal is uncontrollable crying, tantrums, sleeplessness or physical manifestations of their emotions-like stomachaches. Those reactions may signal a need for professional help, Dagg said.

But the children may not be the only ones feeling anxious; parents might also be nervous about turning over the care of their kids. Knowing as much as possible about the camp should alleviate fears. The American Camp Association recommends calling the camp director or scheduling a visit before choosing a camp.

Parents also need to prepare not to be missed, Dagg said. "In some cases, kids miss their pets more than their parents," he noted. But it's actually something parents can be proud of. "That's evidence," he added, "that [you've] raised strong, independent kids."

10 Questions for the Camp Director What is the camp's philosophy and program emphasis? What is the counselor-to-camper ratio? What are the ages of the counselors? What training do counselors receive? What percentage of the counselors returned from last year? How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled? How does the camp handle special needs? How does the camp handle homesickness? Do you offer references? Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association?

Source: American Camp Association

When to bring them home

A child wanting to come home the first two days of camp is normal, said David Dagg of the Center for Balanced Living. He recommends giving kids three chances. "Let them know you would really like them to stay and it would be a good thing," he said. "If they've called three times, and you've talked to the camp counselor and they're telling you your kid is really unhappy, then it's time to bring them home."

Packing

If your child's camp doesn't provide a list of items to pack, ask for one. Be sure to check the camp's policy on electronics, including iPods, cell phones and the like. And consider sending along these extras:

Books & magazines Stationery & stamps Disposable camera Water bottle A candy care package