Summer Camp Parent Tips

Camp is just around the corner and our proof is all the camper and parent information forms that are arriving at our office daily. And as we read through the information you have shared with us, it is easy to see that this summer is going to be another unbelievably positive experience for all of us.

While many of you have written about all the activities your children are looking forward to trying, some of you have shared that your child is nervous about coming to camp without knowing anyone, or that they might be homesick once they arrive. These are normal and understandable feelings. So we thought it would be helpful for you if we shared some things that might help your child, both before camp and during the summer.

Remind them that you have chosen a safe, fun place for them. You selected Southwoods because you know they will have a fantastic time and that Andrea and Scott and all the Southwoods staff are going to take great care of them. Watch the video again with them, go online and check out the website and point out the things that you know they are going to love to do once they get to camp.

If your child expresses concern about not knowing anyone at camp, remind him/her that making friends is one the best things about the summer camp experience. You can explain that a lot of children are coming to camp and do not know anyone yet. And just like your child, everyone who comes to Southwoods, both returning and new has a desire to make new friends. Express your faith in our ability to help them do this. Explain that our bus leaders begin facilitating these new friendships the minute the bus pulls out of the parking lot on the first day of camp and we don’t stop helping until they leave at the end of the summer. Again, sharing your confidence in our ability to help with this is very important in setting the stage for a positive beginning.

Even with all of this advice many children are still going to be nervous until they get to camp and see with their own eyes that they can do it. The end of the summer brings many proud moments when campers realize, “hey I made it even though I really missed my parents, and I had so much fun!” However, in order for that to happen campers need to come to camp knowing that the expectation for them, from you, their parents, is that they can complete the summer and have a fantastic time. Please don’t make promises about picking them up early or speaking with them everyday. Campers that have had these “promises” made to them tend not make the same effort to have fun, get to know other campers and participate, because they think mom or dad will come get them in a few days. Your positive encouragement and unwavering confidence that they will succeed really helps campers come to camp with the attitude that they will be fine.

Once your child is at camp, send him letters, emails or faxes. While it is important to share what you are doing while they are gone, try not to emphasize activities that will make your child feel he is “missing out” or not having as much fun. Send pictures, newspaper clippings or funny things you think he will enjoy. This connection to home is sometimes all a child needs to feel better.
Speaking of letters, keep in mind that the letters you get from your child may be full of good stuff or brimming with homesick feelings. Letter writing times at camp are usually at a quiet time of day that may coincide with when your child feels homesick. And, by the time you get that letter a lifetime has passed at camp. What your child was feeling at the moment he wrote the letter has now passed and he is having a great time. Just like when your child comes home from school and has had a tough day. Once they are able to share it with you, then they are able to have fun and play.

While we are talking about sharing, please know that a child that has not experienced any separation issues in the past, can become extremely emotional the first time they hear your voice on a phone call. They have so much to tell you about all the new experiences they are having at camp and they do not know how or where to begin sharing. Stay positive, ask them questions about the activities and the people at camp. Try not to feed into this emotion with leading questions such as “you miss us, don’t you?” Or “do you think you can make it?” We know phone calls can be difficult for you, but we also know that once the call is over, they will go whistling back up the bunk line with their counselor and rejoin their friends at the next great camp event.
Lastly, it is also possible that a child that you expected to be very homesick may not experience any of those feelings at all. They still love you! So, rest assured that you have made a wonderful decision in deciding to send your child to Southwoods. Being allowed to go to camp is an incredible gift. Lets all enjoy this gift.