Summer is here and camp send-off is just around the corner. You’ve filled out the forms, you’re all paid up, and you’re checking the closets to make sure you have everything on the packing list. Now what? This can be an overwhelming time for first-time campers and their parents, but don’t panic. Everything is going to be great. Remember that sending your child to sleep-away camp is one of the best things that you can do as a parent to help you raise an emotionally healthy, well-grounded, self-confident and self-sufficient human being. Just take a few deep breaths, grab some tea and check out these ten last-minute tips to help ensure success for both you and your child.
1. TALK, BREATHE and LISTEN
Talk about what your child can expect from the experience. From the kind of food they might try, to where to put their dirty clothes, to the possibility of missing home once in a while, talking about the big and small will help to ease the pre-camp jitters. Be honest, be open and be gentle. This can be hard for first-timers. Breathe deep, listen to your child’s concerns and let them know it’s normal to have these feelings.
2. CREATE AN “I TRIED IT LIST”
Brainstorm with your child (young or old) and come up with a few goals for the summer, things to try and ways to push a little out of their comfort zone. It can be as simple as meeting someone from another state to jumping on the blob to leading a prayer at services or trying one new food a week. Remember to check in on their progress in your letters.
3. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS
Be positive and upbeat about the incredible experience they are about to have, but also be real. Remind them that just like at home, there will be amazing moments and tougher ones and it’s all OK. Let them know that you are confident they have the tools and the support to face and overcome whatever comes their way.
4. PRINT PHOTOS
Make time to print a few photos of family, pets, and friends so campers can see you when they need to and can ‘introduce’ their family to their bunkmates and counselors.
5. LABEL LABEL LABEL
I know you’ve heard it a thousand times but labeling is so important. No item is too small or inconsequential to label. Packing sunscreen, a deck of cards, or goggles? Label them! The simplest way to accomplish this task is to grab a black sharpie and start writing. Labeling everything will help your child stay organized and keep track of their stuff, and help camp get the majority of your camper’s belongings back home.
6. BRACE YOURSELF FOR A HOMESICK LETTER
Whether it’s your child’s first or fifth summer, that first letter may contain a collection of all the harder moments from the first few days. Expect it, but know that it’s just a snapshot and a piece of the picture. Feel free to reach out to your child’s Camper Care Staff (Yoetzet) if you are concerned.
7. REVIEW CAMP POLICIES
Please review camp policies with your child regarding the use of technology, packages, mail and phone calls. Better for kids to be informed and not surprised.
8. GET CREATIVE
Find some fun little things to send to your camper. Pick up some stickers, a few stationary options, construction paper and maybe even some confetti. Attach googly eyes to your note, send a postcard from your hometown, or draw a silly picture with your left hand. Maybe save a few of those photos you printed and send one with each letter. Be light and have fun.
9. PRACTICE GOODBYE & AVOID PROMISES
You know your kid best. Will he leap onto the bus or plane without a glance back? Will she hold on to you for dear life? Tell them you can’t wait to hear about their bunkmates and their favorite foods. Remind your child that you love them and that you are so looking forward to doing x, y, and z with them after camp is over. Please don’t promise to come pick them up if they send word. Kids will hold you to your word– a promise of “rescue” can keep them from making an effort to make it work. Your Yoetzet is here to help, so feel free to reach out with any concerns.
10: MAKE PLANS FOR YOU
Book a trip, plan some outings, call friends, go out and dance the night away. This is your time to have fun! Just as the kids have a summer of fun awaiting them, so should you. We all need to fill our self-care bucket, and your adventures will make excellent writing material for your letters. Please avoid telling your kids how much fun you are having without them. This can be our little secret.