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Letters to Camp

 If you or your children have wonderful memories of fabulous summer camp counselors and games and canoes and hikes and campfires and s’mores and more, chances are, the first thing on your summer calendar are those perfect camp dates.

If you never went to camp, you might say, “I could never send my child to summer camp. I would miss him too much.” That was the response of another parent when I mentioned my daughter was at summer camp for two weeks.

Many parents, used to 24/7 contact with their children via cell phones, soccer fields and family dinners, panic at the thought of a week of summer camp separation. As the parent of two current camp counselors, and a former counselor myself, I know that the right camps (I’m partial to ones run by major, experienced organizations such as the YMCA) are a step toward independence and maturity, as well as a cure for nature deficit disorder.

But…once you’ve chosen a great camp, watch those “apron strings.” Nothing increases homesickness more than parent calls, visits, and letters that emphasize how much you miss them! One camp reported that parents are now sending 3 or 4 cell phones, knowing that some will be confiscated. Don’t do it! Trust the camp. Yes you write, but here are the rules:

·      Make life sound dull. Don’t lie, but keep home happenings to things like weeding the garden, painting the trim, cleaning out junk drawers. Don’t let your children think that they’re missing out on excitement at home.

·      Don’t mention that you’ll make their favorite foods the instant they walk in the door. Or that you recorded their favorite show. Or anything else that is absent from camp.

·      Emphasize “We trust you” rather than “We miss you.” If you go on and on about how you can’t wait until they return, that’s all they may think about. Instead, mention things like knowing from trips to the swimming pool that they’re mature enough to remember sunscreen (but don’t go on with a list of do’s and dont’s).

·      Don’t mention your worries about mosquitoes or canoes tipping over or spiders in tennis shoes or dirty bathrooms. It’s actually healthy for children to learn that they can go days without washing hair (in the Quetico wilderness of Canada, it’s actually against the rules; the girls learn that 18 days without soap actually softens their hair!) and that mosquito bites truly do disappear if you don’t scratch!

Camp is about independence, about learning that life without electronics is amazingly entertaining. The right letters make you a partner with the camp staff in introducing your children to the magical outdoor world.

By Jane Kise, Ed.D. – Educational Advisor and Consultant, 
Jane  writes an insightful post every Tuesday for Kidtelligent. Jane is an educational consultant, specializing in teambuilding, coaching, and school staff development. She is also the coauthor of more than 20 books. Jane’s website  is  www.janekise.com