First-Time Campers (and Camp Parents)
There is a wide range of feelings that both parents and first-time campers experience as opening day approaches. While we are all excited, there is sometimes anxiety about facing a new experience. Here are some suggestions for first-time campers to help parent and child make the most of the transition.
A few things you can do to help your camper:
- Visit Camp we open the camps to families with new campers so they can see the facility, meet staff members, and prepare for the summer. Tours will be led at both camps and you should be able to do a tour at each camp if needed. You are welcome to bring a friend. No need to RSVP.
- Pack for camp together. This allows your camper to know where everything is and begin to get a sense of being responsible and capable. Your camper may want to try living out of his or her trunk for a couple of days to practice organizing his or her own stuff in a new way. Resist packing for your child. A list of packed items taped to the inside of the trunk also can be used to remind campers of what has been packed.
- Use positive messages about camp such as, “You are going to have such a great time!” or “What a great opportunity to meet new friends!”
- Avoid promises to come pick them up if it doesn’t go well. Instead, reaffirm your faith that they will enjoy themselves and make the most of the experience.
- Send letters with positive news from home assuring all is well with you and the rest of the family. Avoid subjects that may make a camper feel anxious or unsure about things at home. Phone calls from camper to parent are not allowed in most cases and camp strongly discourages parents from speaking to their children on the phone especially in cases of homesickness. However, camp staff members are happy to talk to parents anytime during the camp experience to update parents and answer any questions. Please do not send cell phones to camp with campers, they can disrupt the cabin dynamics and will be confiscated.
- Help your child understand what to expect by reviewing the camp website and Program Guide which has additional information and tips.
- Send pre-addressed and stamped envelopes for letters home especially for younger campers who might get confused about their address. Discuss possible topics and encourage them to write to you. Make a realistic commitment to them to write, as well.
- Avoid basing success at camp on the presence of one other person. Often in an effort to encourage campers to go to camp, parents assure a child that a particular friend will make the experience successful. This can become a problem if plans change and the friend is not at camp. This can also make a child feel overly dependent on a friend, which can put strain on the relationship. Focus on the entire experience and opportunity to meet others.
- Contact camp if you are unsure your camper is ready for camp. If your child is demonstrating a high degree of anxiety about the camp experience, contact the camp to discuss the situation. In some cases, it may not be right for a camper to attend.
- Remember homesickness is a natural feeling experienced by many campers (and counselors, parents, etc.). For most, it passes after a day or so. It is OK to discuss strategies with campers about how to fend off these feelings in a proactive manner. Help campers to focus on the positive and not to dwell or become attached to negative feelings. Campers are great at coming up with their own ideas about what they can do to stay positive. If a camper is struggling with homesickness we may contact you to discuss how to improve the situation. Counselors are trained to keep campers busy and engaged with activities as a strategy to keep homesickness under control. If you are worried, you may call camp to request a call back with the status of your camper. Please allow 24 hours to have the appropriate person respond to you.
- Separation can (sometimes) be hard on the family, too. Be aware that children read your feelings and may misinterpret what you need from them. Be honest with them and stay positive. Ask questions of the staff prior to or on opening day about things that you are concerned with. Be careful not to undermine your camper's attempts at independence with your own concerns about separation. Seek reassurance, support and counsel from other adults but beware of people who question your choice to send your child to camp. Giving your child an opportunity for independence and an active summer in a beautiful natural setting is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. Don't let others undermine YOUR confidence. Camp can connect you with veteran camp parents who can answer your questions, share their own experiences and offer tons of reassurance that camp is great!
- Occasionally, a camper will send a “distress letter” before they are really into the full swing of the program. These letters are common and are usually followed with a brief “Camp’s-great-gotta-go-bye” letter or no letter at all. Don’t be alarmed if your child doesn’t write. No news is usually good news. It usually means they are busy having too much fun to write. If you expect mail from your child, let them know your expectations. Be as clear as possible. Rather than saying write a lot you may want to set a goal of one letter a week. Camp will reinforce letter writing home but it isn't mandated.