For many kids, they missed a season of sleep away camp last summer. While the logistics of sending a child to camp can be overwhelming, there is a different type of readiness that our kids might need particularly this year as summer approaches. As someone who spends her summers working as the Programming Director (and Social Worker) at a sleepaway camp, here are some of the things that I am thinking about as campers (old and new) return to camp:
- Practice it, talk about it and plan for it. For many of us, the last year and a half has been a ton of family time. While in the last few months our lives have opened up a lot, it is nowhere near the craziness of our pre-pandemic social lives. Are there ways that you can practice separating, especially if your child has not been in school in person? Can you talk with your child about a few things they might want to have at camp when they feel homesick? Maybe a photo book to look at family photos or a worry box where they can write things down and put them away. They might even share with you some of those worries when they come home. Even if your child has gone to camp for many summers, going back to camp following a pandemic is something new for all of them.
Tools to manage the stimulation
- Even if your kids are in school, they are in small groups and many won’t be used to all the stimulation of being at camp. Walk through with them some things they can do to give themselves “quiet time” in their cabins: new books for camp, cards (teach them how to play solitaire), word puzzles, madlibs. Are they allowed non-wireless mp3 players? Music and books on tape with headphones can make the rest hour truly restful.
Talk to the camp
- Let them know what your child’s last year and a half has been like. Have they been in school? Have they not? Have they lost a loved one? How have they been managing the stress of the pandemic? Are there things that would be helpful for counselors to know about how they best manage stress? For someone who reads all that information at my camp, the more information, the better partners we can be in creating a successful summer.
- For many of us, we feel both excited and sad when our kids leave for camp. While it is important for our kids to know that we are going to miss them, it’s not their job to be our shoulder to cry on. Let your kids know that you will miss them and then pick up the phone to talk to another adult about it in more depth.
Homesick and loving camp
- As a reminder, most kids get homesick when they are at camp. I get homesick when I am at camp and I am an adult! Usually around week 4, I start to fantasize about my favorite New York City meal. For many people, we can be both homesick and love camp — those two things can be happening at the exact same time. But, this year, homesickness may surprise some of you when your child who loves camp wants to come home and your very attached child wants to stay at camp “forever”. If you are worried, talk to the camp, they will help you navigate this summer and all our kids are going through.