Big is off on his first school residential trip next week. He’s away for two nights, only about half an hour away at an outward bound type place, but it will feel like forever – for him and for me! He has stayed away before, on cub camp earlier this year, also for two nights, so I know he should be okay with the being away part, but I’m worried about how capable of looking after himself he will be. After all, I still have to remind him to brush his teeth every morning.
I’ve put together a list of five things every child needs for a successful trip away from home…
- To know how to keep clean – now, I’m not under any illusions that Big will be showering every day, brushing his teeth and washing his face every morning and night; personal hygiene is not his strong point, however it is important that he at least makes an effort, so I’ll be drumming it into him that a wash and brush in the morning as a minimum would be good. A year or so ago we began leaving him to it in the shower so I know he can manage that. I’ll also be reminding him that clean pants and socks each morning are a good idea! (But I fully expect him to come home from the trip with almost as many clean pairs as he went with…)
2. To know which stuff is theirs and where to put it – label, label, label! After cub camp, Big came home with a complete (wet) set of someone else’s clothes, including undies. Fortunately, he wasn’t missing anything of his own, but that’s only because I spotted the pile of unclaimed clothes before we left and rootled through and found some of his. Useless. I tried to tell him to make sure if he took something off, to put it either in his ‘dirty’ bag if dirty, or back in his rucksack if he was going to wear it again, but it obviously went in one ear and out of the other. So, label everything and at least if clothes get mixed up in other children’s bags, they stand a chance of finding their way back to you at some point. Look out on Facebook for the ‘is this anyone’s coat/jumper/pants/trainers’ posts from the other mums once they’re home from the trip.
3. To try to get on with everyone – a residential trip can be a trying time for friendships; twenty four hours a day in each other’s company is testing for anyone, but when you’re young and there’s nowhere to escape to, even more so. I’ll be having a chat with Big about how if someone is getting on his nerves to just walk away and even talk to a teacher if needs be so that a proper falling out doesn’t occur. I’ll also remind him to try to be kind and thoughtful towards his friends; some of them have never been away from home before and might be finding it tricky, so a kind word or an offer of a game of pool could really help.
4. Take a teddy or a comforter from home – this is something the school actually reminded us; having something to cuddle can make all the difference when you’re feeling a bit homesick in the middle of the night. Perhaps write your child a letter, make them a bracelet to wear or give them a photo, just to remind them that you’re not far away and you’ll be seeing them again very soon. A few miles and a couple of days can feel like a huge separation, especially if you’re not used to it, so remind them they can talk to the teachers if they’re feeling a little lost.
5. Enjoy it! This is the main thing I’ll be reminding Big to do. I want him to get a lot from this trip (I’ve paid enough for it!!) so, despite the fact he’s a bit nervous about some of the activities, I want him to have a go at everything and enjoy himself. I hope he comes home full of it, with tales of what he’s been up to spilling out with enthusiasm.
So, with any luck, a bit of forward planning and a good talk beforehand, your child should be ready to head off for their away-from-home adventure with lots of excitement and just a teeny bit of nervousness. Now, if anyone can point me in the direction of some tips for parents who’s children have gone away, let me know. I’ll just be over here, sobbing in the corner and watching the clock for Big’s return…