It’s summer camp season again and many of our kids are just chomping at the bit to spend their week in nature, making new friends and creating awesome memories. However, for some of our kids, the battle between excitement and fear is a real thing. What are some things parents can do to prepare all their kids for an amazing time? Here are some suggestions!
For the fearful kid
- Homesickness is the most common ailment at camp and nighttime is the worst because the distractions of daily activities come to a close. It’s a good idea to send up a small light that your kids can use at night to read a book in their bunk without keeping everyone awake. In the past, we have sent glow-sticks with our boys, but apparently, kids kept breaking them and spraying glow-stick-juice all over the place so that is now frowned upon.
- Write notes for your kids to read each night before bed, but for goodness sake don’t make them sappy “Oh, I miss you so much” notes; this is unhelpful. Rather write down stupid jokes for your kids to share with their cabin. They’ll be the rock-star of corn among their friends!
- Give specific writing tasks to your kids to record their experiences. My wife used to buy a journal for our boys and ask them a question to fill in each day. “What was the funniest thing that happened today?” “Who is becoming a good friend?” “Where did you feel Jesus was close today?” Assignments like this help kids focus on the return home and not necessarily what they are missing out on at home. It gives them something to look forward to sharing, which creates healthy anticipation.
For every kid
- Talk to your child’s counselor if possible. It’s amazing what connecting with their leader at camp can do to help them have a great week! Remember these young leaders aren’t parents and aren’t familiar with what makes your child tick – or explode! You can help everyone out by having a conversation before the week begins.
- Prepare them spiritually. Before they leave for camp pull out their camp journal and ask Jesus if He has some promises for them. Write down and special Bible verses that God brings to mind. And pray for them consistently in the weeks leading up to camp that God would meet with them.
- Help them make friends. Pack little dollar store toys that will make them heroes among their cabin mates (especially if they don’t know a ton of other campers.) Little games, magic tricks, cool LED key chains, craft supplies, and the like. That being said here is a list of things you should NOT pack!
- Snacks – too many allergies.
- Things that will create a mess (silly putty can be fun but it can also get stuck in clothes, nail polish might be a disaster)
- Noise makers and especially WHOOPEE CUSHIONS! So help me…
- Finally always focus on “the return” by talking to your kids about how many new memories they will have to share and new skills to teach mom and dad when they return. Don’t talk about how much they will be missing, or how much you’ll be missing them – talk about how fun it will be to see if they’ve grown by the end of camp, or how many new verses they will know and will be able to share.
There are simple things we can do to help our kids go from having a ho-hum week at summer camp to really having an amazing week. It is amazing how many kids’ lives change at summer camp – let’s help them make that happen.