We believe in community to provide your child with the best summer camp experience each year! Our years of successful camp operations help parents and grandparents prepare for a positive outcome for their camper. We are always happy to help answer any questions or calm any nerves! Chances are good, we’ve been there and done that but sharing our life lessons when it comes to camp is what we do best!
Am I Ready?
Am I Ready? What Parents Should Know About Overnight Camp
Your child is ready for camp, but the big question is…. are you, the parent, ready?
Many parents never attended summer camp as a child, so feeling a little emotional tug before taking your child to camp is typical.
Remember overnight camp provides a rich environment full of new friends, songs, achievements, and memorable activities. It provides supportive relationships, challenging opportunities, but most important it gives all children a level playing field from the start. Camp is an important rite of passage where kids can explore, discover and just be themselves among their friends — without Mom or Dad tagging along.
Here’s what you can do to prepare yourself for your child’s first sleep-away:
Find out if the camp is accredited. Safety is usually the number one concern among all parents. If the camp you’ve chosen is accredited by the American Camp Association, you can rest assured it exceeds the highest standards in the industry. Certified lifeguards and instructors in all activities, along with safety helmets, harnesses and life jackets are essentials in providing a safe camp experience.
Next, get to know the camp’s staff.
But what about your child’s emotional safety at camp? Parents tend to be concerned about their child fitting in at camp and being well adjusted. How do you know who is going to encourage your child to eat well? Who will make sure those teeth get brushed and shorts gets changed? What happens if your child “has an accident” at night?
While nice facilities and activities are important, they should not be the main factor in selecting the right camp for your child. The most significant factor in camping is the quality and character of the individuals who work with your children. Find out how the camp recruits its staff and how many counselors return each year. What is the staff training like? Check into the directors’ background. Make sure the director is more than an “administrator of paper,” but someone who’s working directly with the counselors, the activities and the campers. Being comfortable with who is working with the campers’ gives parents’ peace of mind.
Next, check out the camp’s “sense of community.” Does the camp provide a close, family-like atmosphere? This is where the comfort factor comes into play. Eating as a “cabin family” three times a day in a society where families rarely eat together is comforting to children.
While sometimes it seems like kids are screaming for freedom and independence, children thrive on schedules and boundaries. Therefore, they gain great comfort in predictability, and camp is predictable. Knowing exactly what to expect makes a child feel safe and secure. And safe is good. That predictability and associated comfort that comes along with it is why children treasure traditions. Going to bed and waking up to the camp bugle Cabin skits. The pudding eating contest. Sleeping under the stars. All these traditions give kids joy and comfort. And that’s how the camp’s sense of community is defined.
Get to know the camp’s schedule. You will relax if you know exactly what your child is doing and when. It helps to understand how the day is structured so you will know what is going on.
Finally, know that deprivation is good, and it leads to appreciation. Home equals luxuries. At home, kids are rarely deprived, so they rarely appreciate what they have … a warm shower, television, cell phones, junk food, and video games. At camp, kids sleep in bunks, wait their turns, cook out and wait for warm water in the shower. And when they get back to reality, they tend to appreciate Mom and Dad more, along with those little extras at home.
Unlike other camps that can accommodate hundreds of campers, Camp Lakotah has a very limited enrollment. We average 50 – 60 campers each week by design! But because we are small, we provide a close, family-like atmosphere. This is where the “comfort factor” comes into play, especially with first-time campers. The Directors and Staff get to know each camper on a first-name basis. Each camper receives personal attention and care. It is all part of our “camp community,” where kids can safely be kids without Mom or Dad.
Many parents never attended summer camp as a child, so feeling a little emotional tug before taking your child to camp is typical. If you feel a bit of anxiety, relax, that is normal.
Potential Homesickness (HS)
Do not worry. Homesickness (missing home) is normal. According to psychologists, 95% of children experience some degree of HS when they are away from home. It is typically a fleeting moment.
One of the best things you can do to avoid HS is to provide assurance and encouragement to your child before camp. Being positive and upbeat is the key to your child’s success!
What else can parents do?
- Include your child in the decision making process of which camp to attend and how long to stay – if they feel they are apart of the decision they will have much stronger buy-in!
- Encourage practice time away from home
- Assure your child that YOU will be doing fine without him or her
- Provide detailed information about our camp
- Teach your child coping strategies and tell them what to do if they feel homesick.
Research shows the most effective ways of coping are staying busy, talking with counselors, writing letters, making friends, focusing on what is fun, maintaining a positive attitude and remembering camp will be over before they know it. Please review these with your child before camp and be sure to also include any strategies you may use as a family in potentially stressful situations.
What do I do if I get a Homesick Letter?
It’s normal to receive a “missing home “letter.
Keep in mind the letter is s few days old by the time you receive it, and the counselors have already helped make things better. And homesickness passes by quickly. If you reply, be sympathetic but encouraging. Remember, children exaggerate negative emotions and remind them that their feelings are normal, and you know they are capable of thinking and doing lots of things to make them feel better.
Finally, if you have strong concerns, call us. But keep in mind that camp is always busy. Our primary responsibility is your child…constant emails and phone calls only draw attention away from the kids. Explain to your child that the phone is NOT for campers’ use (as it only stirs up strong emotions.) We will work with your child to soothe homesickness.
What parents should NOT do?
- Offer a “pick up deal”
Some well-intended parents say, “I’ll come get you if you get homesick.”
The perception is “I don’t have enough confidence in you, so I’ll rescue you.” There is no good outcome for the pickup deal (either way). You and your child will make it through. And you will be much happier knowing your child has achieved a higher degree of self-esteem and confidence, while learning new activities and responsibilities in a safe environment while at camp.
- Give mixed messages
“I don’t know what I’ll do without you.” or “I hope to remember to feed your dog.”
These messages give your child the impression that you are not going to function without your child. Reassure your child that you and things at home are fine. Don’t say anything to make your child worried about stuff at home. Remind your child that camp is not forever, and to enjoy it before it flies by.
Remember to take care of yourself…and enjoy a well-deserved break from full time parenting. Have dinner with your spouse, spend time with your friends, go on a vacation or just relax.
Camp is going to be great for your child! And no matter what you are doing, the kids are having an even better time than you are!
Cell Phones - take em or leave em??
The following article is by Stephen Fine Ph.D.
When packing the kids off to summer camp an increasingly common issue has become whether or not to include a cell phone along with the sunscreen, lifejacket and insect repellent. Cell phone use among children and adolescents is becoming widespread and the marketing trend is towards increasingly younger age groups. Kid’s cell phones make good sense for reasons of contact and security. But is it good sense to send a cell phone into camp with your child?
Camp directors have noted an increase of personal phones coming into camp. Although these devices can give parents a feeling of closer contact, control, and peace of mind, are they necessary or indeed appropriate in a camp environment? The question a parent or guardian should ask themselves is what was the rational for giving their child a cell phone in the first place?
Cell phones have a real purpose in our fast-paced lives. That purpose has much to do with security, the communication of ever-changing schedules and the “comfort” to children and their parents or guardians of instant unimpeded contact anytime anywhere.
But what purpose is served by sending a cell phone into camp? Is it a concern with safety? Parents and guardians presumably select a camp with discretion and a confidence that the administration and staff will maintain their child’s safety on a 24-hour basis. Is it the need for instant communication? Camp is a place where time is slowed down to a walking pace. It is a place for personal development, interacting with cabin mates, and reflecting on the natural surroundings. Details of day to day life are best communicated with a good old-fashioned postal letter. Letter writing is not mere nostalgia. Opposed to a hasty utterance into an electronic device, composing a letter allows for introspection and gives a young person the time needed to reflect on new surroundings and new experiences.
What Could Happen
Let’s look at two examples of campers who are packing cell phones.
Alicia is a first-time camper. Although she is excited about camp, she still has the normal pre-camp jitters. “What if I feel homesick and want to come home?” Her parents wisely point out to her how much fun she will have and talk about new friends and the exciting activities. However, as camp draws nearer her anxiety increases and so a deal is struck. Alicia will take a cell phone packed in the bottom of her suitcase. If she becomes really homesick, she can just call home.
Not the Best Plan
This plan seems to do the trick and Alicia happily goes off to camp. However, the plan is flawed and has set Alicia up for potentially isolating herself from her peers and mentors. If in the first few days of camp she begins to experience normal separation anxiety she will likely turn first to the cell phone. She is less likely to turn to her counselors or cabin mates who would help her get over her temporary feelings while allowing her to develop the independence and interdependence that her parents supposedly sent her to camp to learn.
Many camps have a “wait and see policy” regarding campers making phone calls home. A good call home is pre-arranged and made when the parent or guardian will be available to receive the call. Calls are never made at night but always during the excitement of the day’s events. They are also timed so that the camper will go off to a favorite activity immediately after talking and ideally the counselor should be available to speak with the parent or guardian and then spend some time with the camper after the call.
Wayne has gone to camp for the last five years. He and his buddies attend every summer and they quite literally spend their winter counting the days until the bus rolls off to camp. Wayne has the latest in cell phone technology – camera, Bluetooth, MP3 playback, gaming capability and even video. He is particularly taken with its gadgetry and displays the phone to everybody at camp. All around camp you can hear Wayne’s voice. “I’m not using it as a phone – it’s my camera!” “It’s not a phone it’s my MP3 player!” “Hey, Shawn brought a video game to camp – this is the same thing!”
Missing in Action
One day after lunch Wayne cannot find his phone. He is certain he had it at the ropes course and now he cannot find it. Wayne becomes frantic. Was it lost or stolen? The phone was very expensive; what is he going to tell his parents? If it’s lost that’s bad enough but what if somebody’s raking up phone bills? Although many offers to help Wayne in his search he has become suspicious of everyone.
The rest of Wayne’s camp days are spent in complete distraction from camp life. He is preoccupied with the whereabouts of his missing phone and doubts the sincerity of his cabin mates and counselors. He has lost not only his phone but also his standing with his friends, his involvement as a member of a community and the opportunity to have the benefit of a favorite summer pastime.
Many camp directors are emphatic that cell phones, video games and MP3 players have no place at camp. I believe what they are trying to convey is that a break from technology can offer the opportunity to experience daily life in a simpler and more basic fashion. Camp life offers this occasion through physical activity, face to face interaction and living close to nature – something that is becoming a rarity today’s world.
Dr. Stephen Fine is the Chair of Educational Research of the Ontario Camping Association.