With four weeks left before opening Day at Aloha, Hive and Lanakila, you are probably starting to prepare in earnest for your child’s departure for camp. In addition to completing your paperwork and packing the trunk, there are other ways you can ensure your child’s success this summer. I asked Barnes Boffey, Kathy Plunkett and MJ Parry about ways that parents can support the camp directors and staff. Here are a few ways you can enhance the camp experience for everyone in your family.
Barnes started with a broad reminder of why you enrolled your child, “A summer at camp is about having your child experiment with new parts of themselves, in a situation that is safe, filled with remarkable role models and focused in all aspects on the well-being and growth of your child. Don’t interrupt the process by continually pulling him or her back to the status quo.” Barnes recounts the story of the camper who walked up to his mom on Show Weekend and the first thing he said was “Mom, I’ve really changed. I hope that’s all right with you.”
Before you arrive at camp, be sure to tell your son or daughter how much you respect them for their ability to be successful at camp, face the issues of growing up, and to work things out without mom or dad around. Barnes adds, “There is a difference between telling someone we are proud of them, which is often primarily a reflection of what we believe is our effort at having taught them the right stuff, and telling someone we respect them, which is often primarily a reflection of what we believe is their best effort and what they have done with what we taught them.” Also, discuss how you each see the summer’s goals. Your vision may be different from theirs, so discussing and accepting the differences can go a long way to having everyone feel that the summer is a success.
On Opening Day, as suggested in the parent handbook, make your good-byes quick and cheerful. Even if your child is reluctant to see you leave, or if you are reluctant to leave, try not to convey your sadness or anxiety to your child. As difficult as that moment might be, (and for many children, it is no problem at all!) please know that our camps’ staff is prepared for that moment, and trained to swoop in and help set things right. You can count on our counselors to be sure your camper has a smooth and loving transition.
In the weeks before camp, help your child visualize the successful drop-off, and wonderful summer ahead. Your support means a lot to your child, and if they know you’re confident about their ability to thrive, that will make a big difference in your camper’s approach. Pay attention to how you describe your feelings about their time away, as it is one thing to let them know that he or she will be missed, but it is another thing to imply you’ll be sad or lonely without them. Try not to hint that your child can come home if they don’t like camp. There is much less incentive to be present and happy at camp if a child senses an easy out in a moment of homesickness. Again, the directors and counselors are attentive and prepared to help your child weather a tough moment, and then successfully conquer it!
If you’re a first-time camp parent, you can expect to receive a phone call within the first three days, giving you an update on your child’s first few days at camp. Other parents should receive a note from your camper’s counselor, via US Mail, within a week. In the meantime, we hope you’ll trust that the directors and staff are busy ensuring your child’s happiness and safety. If you phone or email us, we may take a few hours or even a day to respond (unless it is urgent). Your camper is our top priority, and often our directors are away from their desks, spending time at assemblies, meals, unit times and evening programs. If you are worried about your child, let Barnes, MJ or Kathy know. They’ll first check in with the tent counselor and other staff who are close to your child, and then respond with as much information as they can. If your child comes to camp with a situation that causes him or her concern, please let us know in advance, so we can be partners with you in managing and understanding the situation at home.
In the four weeks between now and the opening day of the first session, begin a conversation with your child about their camp summer. In addition, on a more practical note, be sure to review the packing list for camp. Your child be will more comfortable in Vermont’s unpredictable summer weather with proper rain gear, warm clothing options, plenty of socks and appropriate footwear. Showing up with everything on the list means no phone calls to ask for a package of rain boots or sweat pants to be mailed to camp! At Aloha and Hive, MJ and Kathy have discouraged sending packages to campers other than for essential camp items and in some cases additional reading material. While gifts may seem helpful, they can actually be very distracting from camp life. They take campers out of the rustic and simple environment that we believe is so essential to the overall experience. Packages can also set up a competitive environment among campers. Please believe that a letter or card can be just as powerful. When the focus of the communication is on the message, rather than on a tangible item, your words are even more important. If you are unsure whether a package for your camper is appropriate, please check with the Director.
With less than a month to go before the beginning of camp, Barnes, Kathy and MJ are hard at work on the final details that will ensure the “Best Summer Ever” for your child. In addition, they have hired the finest staff to care for your child in a safe, nurturing environment that will allow your camper to thrive and grow in amazing ways. Thank you for sharing your child with us in the summer of 2012!
Laura Gillespie is the Communications & Alumni Relations Manager at The Aloha Foundation, an alumna of Aloha Hive and Aloha Camp, and has been a Horizons and Lanakila parent.