4 ways parents can help kids have a great summer at camp

by HomeDecorBeauty

Summer camp is a familiar coming-of-age ritual for generations of American kids. They’ll get some exercise, maybe learn a new skill, and hopefully make some new friendships before the lazy days of summer are over. Whatever the focus of the camp, kids can mostly rely on predictable rituals around the campfire during sunny days and nights.

But the pandemic-hit summers of 2020 and 2021, like most other parts of American life, have transformed the camping experience dramatically. Some camps were closed, while others tried to host children and took safety precautions. For many parents whose children are too young to be vaccinated, camping is not an option.

So this year, many families may be trying something “normal” they haven’t tried since 2019 — or not at all.

After two years of mixed school schedules and online learning, kids can be intimidated by in-person camps.

Fortunately, camping experts say there are a number of ways parents at home can help support their summer camp.

Share information about your camper

This year, “kids need more,” said Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Summer Camp Association. “They need more oversight, they need more guidance.”

Camp leaders and counselors may be especially grateful for their knowledge of the children they host. Talking to leaders: Knowing how children cope with conflict “helps us provide a better experience for campers,” agrees Julie Bowman, manager of camps and public experiences at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.

Consider leaving a message with the camp leader to share strategies that have worked for your child.

communicate carefully

Parents often write to campers explaining how their children miss their home. Those parents had good intentions, “but that 9-year-old really believed their parents needed them. They were worried about their parents,” said Bob Bechtold, program director at the Sarah Heinz House in Pittsburgh, which runs day camps and Overnight camp. They may be more homesick.

Rather than focusing your letter on how much you miss your children, Bechtold said, “it should be more about getting kids to talk about their experiences and telling them how proud you are.”

Mention that you were looking forward to hearing their stories about the camp and that you were glad they had a new experience.

“It puts them in a great place where they can be successful — they don’t worry about home, they don’t think about what’s going on there,” Bechtold said. “That’s what camp is about – to create those memories, to live in the moment.”

Also, let your kids know in your letter that this could be a summer to try new things and have fun, rather than worry about doing well, Rosenberg says.

“Making mistakes is an important part of learning, development and a growth mindset,” he said. “That’s what’s great about boot camp. Here, kids can really learn to improve their character, learn and become more curious, more intelligent Discovery oriented. Don’t be afraid to try new things.”

send supplies

Campsites often have emergency items such as towels that campers can borrow. But, Bechtold said, telling counselors they’ve forgotten something can be very uncomfortable for children. Some people will use key items instead of asking for help.

So if your child hasn’t gone to camp yet, even if you believe you know, confirm what’s needed and use a written checklist when packing. If camp has already started, let your child know that if anything is missed, they can tell their counselor and ask for help to correct the situation.

processing equipment

Help your child understand and follow the camp’s policy on cell phones and digital devices. At times, these rules can be unsettling for kids who have spent a lot of time on digital devices over the past few years.

At Bowman’s day camp, “we encouraged them not to bring their phones,” she said. “If they do bring their phone, we ask them to hide it.”

It can be especially stressful for some boys who are more accustomed to communicating through text or gaming platforms because they don’t want to show emotion or develop empathy with others, Rosenberg said.

If your child has not yet started camping, confirm the policy on cell phones and other devices and be prepared for your camper. If summer camp is underway and your child is frustrated with limited device usage, try encouraging them to embrace a screen-free (or at least screen-minimized) summer.

The beauty of summer camp, Rosenberg said, is that children develop their budding identities by making face-to-face connections with others.

Ideally, he said, millions of children would put their digital screens aside this summer and “start building stronger social-emotional connections — the relationships we all need.”

Editor’s Note – Melissa Rayworth writes for The Associated Press on topics such as parenting and home design. Follow her on Twitter @mrayworth.

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