The first days at camp can be nerve-wracking – not necessarily for the campers, who are likely having the time of their lives with new friends and full days of activities and fun, but for the parents, who are waiting for word about how it’s going. The anxiety can be especially high for parents of first-time campers. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering about your child making friends, liking their counselors and being able to keep up in all the sports and other activities. The answers to these questions and many more are nearly always a resounding YES (followed by a short story)!!
Parents of repeat campers can rest assured that no news is good news during the first week of camp. If something is proving challenging, the camp directors will call you immediately. Some camps make sure to call parents of all new campers within 72 hours of arrival just to check in. These calls don’t involve the camper, as they are still adjusting.
If everything is going well, the first call from your child will come about one week to 10 days after camp begins. The philosophy behind this policy is that kids need time to settle into life at camp. I admit, by the end of a week, after I had settled in and made friends and had fun every day, I would have had nothing but good things to report back home!
These phone calls – regardless of how well the camp experience is going though, do need some forethought. The idea is for parents and campers to share about life at camp. Before the phone call, campers are sometimes reminded by their counselors to think about 10 things they love about camp also. When the conversation is directed (Tell me about your cabin mates. What activities are you in? Tell me about the trips you’ve taken. How is the food?) kids will spend time focusing on their positive experiences.
As all counselors and camp staff know, even after the best phone call between parents and kids, there can be post-call syndrome. Kids can get a little teary and miss home briefly, but they are with their favorite counselor, who will stay and with them and get them back into camp life. Unfortunately, there is no such built in support system at home for the parents after they hang up. My advice is for parents to make the call together, if possible, or to have a friend with you during the call. When you hang up, you can then celebrate your child’s successes with someone!
After the first phone call, parents should receive frequent letters home from their child and write regular letters or emails to their camper. More durable than a phone call, letters and e-mails can be saved, re-read and processed over time. The later calls are often less emotional than the first ones – kids have so much more to share about how much fun they are having, after all.
Remember, parents are always allowed to call the camp and check in with camp staff to see how your child is.
At all camps, communication between the camp staff, parents and the campers is all about partnership, which is at the core of the camp philosophy. The counselors and staff really do care about the kids and want to make the family’s transition as smooth and as happy as possible for all. So please, don’t hesitate to be and keep in touch!