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I love the rare moments of parenthood when I am not preparing for something. Every night when I tuck the girls in, I relish the moment that I am fully present. I sit next to them sing camp songs, rub their backs, and I am just there. I try to have a moment in the morning of being fully present, but of course it is brief and soon I am into my duties of preparing something. As a parent, I feel as if my day is full of getting ready for the next thing. Small things like breakfast, sack lunches and backpacks. Big things like helping my children to follow through, to put their items away, to be kind, to do their best work, to contribute positively to the family and to their community. Our job as a parent is to prep!
It’s camp time. Are you ready? Here are some things that you can do to prepare your camper and yourself for their stay at summer camp. Some camp families have few apprehensions about this experience and for others this is a new and somewhat of a frightening endeavor. Wherever you are in the spectrum, your friendly camp directors and staff are here for you.
Your Camper: (This of course is going to look different depending on their age)
• Make sure that they have had several sleep overs at friend’s houses or grandparents. Resist the urge to pack their bags for them, look up dehydrator reviews to make them homemade beef jerky for the camping trip, or to call and check on them while they are there. If they have a phone, have them leave it at home. As we are used to having direct contact with each other, this is a good way to test the waters.
• Have them write a good ol’ letter to someone, lick it, address it, stamp it and drop it in a mailbox. You will thank me later when you receive a letter from camp!
• Make sure they are gearing up for camp physically. They have the opportunity to hike, ride, climb and backpack amazing and challenging trails. If you have purchased their hiking boots, take a long walk together in them to break them in (by the way, here’s a list of the comfiest walking shoes for guys.) If they are in an older unit and are interested in mountain biking, take some bike rides at home
• Especially for teenagers, have them experiment by taking a mini-vacation from their devices. A couple of hours, a day, a weekend, maybe start short and work up from there.
• Have them think about a statement for their social media pages. Maybe something like; “Peace out Facebook, I will not be sharing my day by days with you, but rather living fully present while at camp” Ok, I know your teenager may not post that, but maybe something like it.
• Have them write down their goals. Not yours for them, but what do they want from their camp experience.
• Make a homesick plan together:
1. Experiencing homesickness is not entirely bad. It means you have a home that you love, that’s awesome. It is sometimes a part of the process, and it is a confidence booster when a camper gets through it. They may have certain moments where they feel homesick, but more often than not these do not make up the entire day.
2. Talk through a plan before they get to camp and figure out how they can get to a happy place, if needed. Write down the plan and tuck it in their luggage. This is an amazing opportunity to learn a skill that can serve them in life. Today’s youth goes to technology to escape. Studies have shown that this only increases their stress. Some ideas might be: a happy book, taking 10 deep breaths, traveling to a place you love in your mind, packing a certain stuffed animal or pillow, thinking of your favorite memory, shooting hoops or tossing a football. Remind them that they are capable of this wonderful independence and to have fun.
3. Your plan should NOT be, “Just give it a couple of days and if you do not like it, we will come get you.” This will set them up to just give it a couple of days and knock the confidence right out of them.
4. Let your camper know what to expect as far as letters and emails. You do not need to write everyday but let them know what to expect.
• You are giving an incredible gift to your child. I cannot promise you that they won’t lose their socks or water bottle, that their hair or nails will be perfectly well kept, that they will love every meal, and adore every counselor, or that they will spend their time at camp free of disappointment or rainy days. We strive to run a top notch organization. And we may fail you in some way: we may not post enough pictures of your camper, we might not handle a situation as well as you would have liked or letters home might not be delivered fast enough. You are still giving your child an incredible gift. Choosing an everyday carry knife for camp is an important part of survival while camping. You are preparing them for college and beyond; you are giving them the freedom to gain confidence, independence and leadership skills; and you are instilling in them that they can do it. Write that on your bathroom mirror. Think about this when you are looking for inspiration for gift ideas for dad, an antique or authentic knife has loads of symbolism.
• Start to think about what YOU want during their time at camp. A vacation, time to organize, time to have one on one time with your other children, some date nights with your spouse or friends, a break from rushing your camper from activity to activity. Write down what you will gain from this experience aside from your camper’s benefits. The time will go by fast
• If you have apprehensions, work to resolve them. If you are worried that your camper is not going to know anyone, set up a pre-camp get together with local campers. If there are no local campers, set up a Skype call or Facetime. If you are worried about your camper’s medical needs, become friendly with the nurse. If you are anxious about your son or daughter’s food allergies, talk it through with the Camp Director or Head Cook. Make a camper-sick plan for yourself. Do whatever you need to do to work through your concerns. Make sure there is only support, excitement and optimism coming from you, and share your anxiety and worry with another trustworthy adult.
• Pack some self-addressed envelopes in their luggage.
• Complete your paperwork. It helps us on our end to better prepare for your child. Follow the packing list- we review it every year to make sure we are still on target. Securely write your camper’s name on every item.
• Whether you are sending them on a plane or dropping them off at camp, please refrain from bawling until they can longer see you. If you are driving into camp, you are welcome to poke around, meet and chat with the staff and minimally help them get settled. If you are helping to organize their socks keep in mind that you want them to know, that you know, they can soar without you. Take a deep breath, trust and remind yourself that you are giving an awesome gift to your child.
As always, we are here for you. We consider ourselves your partners. We are grateful and honored to have your campers with us for the summer. We strive to provide an awesome summer experience and we continue to love what we do. See you soon!