How to Send Your Kid to Camp… Rules of Engagement
Sending your kid to camp is no easy task. In fact, I approach it each year just like the last - as if I'm leaving to accomplish something so big, so great, that only the most stoic standing person can succeed at this challenge. By the time I'm done, they'll have a statue erected with my face on it. OK, not really, but still. It's hard! Here's some lessons I've learned in the last decade re: camp:
- Pick a camp you are both comfortable with – the worst thing you can do is pick a camp you are nervous about sending your kid to. Is the context of the camp acceptable and worthy of your child’s attention? Does your kid seem excited to go and learn more about [insert something interesting here]? Is the camp organization reputable and do you have any local references to rely your opinion on?
- Pick a camp that has a timeframe you both can handle – One serious mistake is to send your kid to a week-long overnight camp when he’s never spent the night anywhere else in his sweet little life. Camp is not the time to ‘try something new’ and hope they work it out. I guarantee you’ll get that call from a camp counselor and find yourself traipsing through the campground looking for your kiddo who’s shyly sitting in some corner wishing they were as brave as the other kids, not realizing it’s a matter of exposure, not confidence.
- Have the ‘talk’ about mutual respect and group dynamics – turns out, much of what we intuitively know about group dynamics as adults came from experiences that worked (and didn’t work) as kids. Seems like a no-brainer, but as a parent I’m realizing that sometimes it’s those little nuances in an experience that my son misses until I point them out. At 34, I still miss those sometimes, too. But hey – no one’s perfect, right? So jot down some important messages you want to convey and have the talk with your kid before they go to camp. Some of my trusted favorites include, but are not limited to:
- Just because your friend does it doesn’t mean you have to. This includes practical jokes, sneaking out of tents, catching poisonous snakes, jumping off of cliffs, kissing behind trees and other adolescent things that come up at camp. And I don’t care if he’s your new best friend.
- Attending camp does not suddenly make you a teenager. Seriously. It simply makes you a kid who went to camp one summer, so NO, you cannot stay up until midnight and NO you cannot now watch rated-R movies. To be clear, getting older makes you a teenager. Then and only then do you get teenager privileges.
- Yes, camp counselors count as guardians even when they aren’t related to you. Bottom line is, they are wearing the camp counselor shirt, name tag, and other paraphernalia, so do what they say. Please.
- Let go. Easier said than done, right? I know. Just remember – kids are like horses, bees, etc. They can sense fear. Once that happens, you’ll find yourself sending freshly baked cookies every day, writing (yes, writing) letters to mail to them, and more. Just let them go. It’s a great experience for the both of you and someday you’ll be sending them off to college, so start practicing now.
For more tips on how to send your kids to camp, click HERE!