Giving your child to the care of other people is perhaps the greatest act of trust you as a parent can give; we aim to do everything we can do to earn and keep that trust. We know we cannot do this without your help. We want to be partners with you, to ensure your children continue to have the safest, most wholesome experience with us as possible.
Is this your child’s first time away from family for an extended period of time? Is it your first time with your children away for an extended time? Are there uncertainties of what will happen during the week?
It is natural to feel bad about not being around those we love – let your child know that. As older people, we usually know how to deal with them; oftentimes, youth and adolescents do not. What follows are a few suggestions for you to prepare your child for their time with us:
• Talk about camp. Ask questions and discuss what camp might be like and what they might expect. Let them know what you will be doing when they are away. Help your child to focus on making new friends and being involved in camp activities. This positive attitude of focusing on what is going on at camp, rather than wondering about what is happening at home, makes for the best camp experience.
• Speak openly about the possibility of homesickness before your child leaves for camp. Set your child up for success by assuring your child of your love and that he/she will have a great time at camp and brainstorming some coping strategies. It’s not helpful to tell your child that you will come and get him, or call her. Overcoming homesickness will be a great success for your child. Phone calls prevent this opportunity for success.
• Send a letter to your child before camp begins so a message from home will be awaiting his/her arrival. (Camp Tapawingo: P.O. Box 189 – Falls City, OR – 97344) Please do not send packages with food or candy as they are not permitted to have these in the cabin. Ask specific questions about what they are doing and encourage them to write back. Send self-addressed stamped envelopes or postcards with your child so they can write home or give them a journal to write in while they are away. Encourage them to write about the positive things happening at camp…favorite activity from that day, something new they learned, name of a new friend, ….
Homesick campers may act out in behavior, become withdrawn, quiet and melancholy or become very active and rambunctious. We try to let them know we understand what they are feeling and how to appropriately deal with their feelings. We keep them busy with the normal flow of the daily schedule, rather than staying in their cabin or in our health center. We also realize there are real symptoms, aches and pains that can accompany homesickness.
On a related issue, we do have a “no cell phone” policy at camp. Cell phones can be lost, stolen or used by campers inappropriately with photos or calls to outsiders who could potentially put campers at risk. Furthermore, there is a larger problem with campers having cell phones at camp, and that is trust. When children come to camp they – and you – are making a leap of faith, transferring primary care from you as parents to us and their counselors. As children learn to trust other caring adults, they grow and learn to solve some of their own challenges. Contacting you by phone essentially means they have not made this transition, and it prevents us from getting to problems that may arise and addressing them quickly. If a cell phone is brought to camp, it will be kept locked up in healthcare and handed back at the end of the camp session. Please be assured we will contact you when there is a need for your child to speak to you.
Because of the number of campers and the type of outdoor experience we want to give our campers, we do not have telephones or e-mail readily available for our campers to use during the week, so please don’t promise them they will be able to talk to you at any time during the week. We will ensure your child receives mail sent from you, and if your child gets homesick and we think it helpful, we will be in contact with you, and then let the child talk to you by phone. Talk with your child before they leave for camp and tell them that there is always someone here they can reach out to.
Camp can be just as tough for parents as for their children. Send them a letter or two, but instead of telling them you “miss” them, tell them you love them. We want to work together to make this a great experience for both you and your child.