Some children thrive in a camp like environment.
Some kids are way out of their comfort zone.
But all children can benefit from camp because of the independence and social skills that it builds.
Children should attend camp when they have the emotional vocabulary to express how they are feeling and would be able to articulate that to an adult in charge. This type of development is like a sliding scale; some children have it at eight years old others not until they are twelve years old.
Do you build up a weakness or strength?
Parents often look at camps for ‘growth’ for their child and will target
areas they feel their child is already strong in. Parents want to help develop
that area. Some parents do the opposite; they target a weakness the child has.
As an expert in child, adolescent and family therapy, I know, parents must
target the strengths of their child. If parents target camps that highlight
the ‘strengths’ of their child, they will see more self-determination and
strength from their child when he or she returns. Empowerment results from
being treated with respect and having your strengths acknowledges and
I have worked with over 20,000 students and parents who do summer camps each year. Working as a school counselor, I was involved in overnight trips, week-long trips, international trips and a variety of kinds of camps with a variety of ages. I have had endless conversations with parents before/ during and after a school sponsored trip and how it impacted their child. These are my tips.
Tips for Parents
- All parents should talk to their child about ‘homesickness’ even if
their child has NEVER been homesick before. So often we are not sure why or how homesickness hits so all parents should help their child have a plan of action. Each child is unique, but some things seem to work well with many children.
- Parents should not send anything unless they have talked to their
child, and then asked them, “Would you like to take a photo?” “Would it be helpful if I put in some friendly notes in your items?” Some parents feel guilty, and they put in things in the suitcase because they need to do it. Not that their child needs it.
- I always encourage parents to discuss what will be in suitcases and stick to the plan. Some kids feel more out of control when parents sneak things in on them.
- Calls home from camp should not be treated lightly or brushed off with words like “you only have two more days” or “you are a big girl”. What the child needs is to be heard and know that the parents care about their feelings. Parents can also ask to speak to an adult and get some real facts. Who is my child sitting by at lunchtime? What do her sleeping habits look like? What adult has she connected to? What seems to be the hardest thing for her to do? Then the parent should get back on the phone and talk to the child again.
I call it a ‘sandwich call’.
Top layer is the child’s actual feelings and emotion. The middle is the ‘meat’ of the
The middle is the ‘meat’ of the situation – the facts. The bottom layer is unconditional love and support
The bottom layer is unconditional love and support from the parents.
For families who are doing a summer camp
Important. Ask your child to do this activity. – Before you leave make a list of all the times you have already been successful and put this list in your suitcase. Example: Stayed with Grandma two weeks, Stayed at Carla’s house about 10 times, Stayed at the school sleepover one night, Stayed at a basketball camp two nights. Then make an “action plan.”
Then create your unique “action plan.”
At camp if you are not feeling okay about the situation.
- Get your thoughts on paper. If you are able to explain in writing
what is really bothering you, you might be able to work out a plan on your
- Know whom you will go to talk to because the longer you wait to
express your concerns the bigger the event or feelings can be. Parents
Parents should make sure the child knows about the camp nurse or the camp dorm support person or others that are around to help them. Parents should make sure the camper has seen the website or handouts so they understand how big the camp is and who is available to help kids.
- On your notes- jot down your plan – who you will talk to and when
will you talk to them. This will often get a child to make the first step