Check here for a running log of the Director’s Daily Blog:
May 16, 2018
I’m getting an early start this year with some thoughts on how to prepare your child for camp
Google “influence of parents vs. peers” and you’ll get a long list of ways that parents set the course for all kinds of choices. TV watching, cell phone time use, language choices, alcohol and cigarette use…all come back to parents’ example.
This is true at camp, too. The work you’ve done over the years is the foundation for your child’s camp experience. At camp, we grow the seeds of independence and resilience that you planted.
With this in mind, here are some tips to prepare a first-timer or a returning child:
Model the behavior
Camp is about trying new things and being uncertain. Demonstrate this for your children. Try something new – buy a fruit you don’t recognize at the store together. Express your discomfort or curiosity or even aversion to trying it. If you don’t like it, try it again another time “just to be sure.” You can model willingness to try new things, to be unsure of the outcome, and show them how to navigate the unexpected.
Give them wings
Everyday at camp is chance to gain new skills. Demonstrate your confidence in their ability to care for themselves by letting them succeed (or fail) in a controlled way at home. Teach them the rules in advance, of course, but let them experience being in charge of themselves. Let them pack their own lunch, pick their own outfits, get dinner started for the family, and absolutely include them in packing for camp. These tasks help them gain agency over their experiences and feel confident to expand their competence.
Don’t come to the rescue
Failure happens. It’s not the end of the world, but rather an important part of life. Herzl Camp staff members are trained to “fail forward,” always learning from their mistakes. Give your camper the chance to fail and don’t fix it for them. If the dinner they tried to make doesn’t turn out, pour a bowl of cereal and ask them what they think happened. Ask what they’ll do differently the next time…and make next time happen soon. Share your own failures – the brownies that didn’t turn out so you stopped at the store on the way to the party; the bike chain that you couldn’t reattach so you walked home. Express frustration or disappointment as well as acceptance.
Screen time weaning
Our addiction to our phones is real. So is theirs. Going cold turkey at camp is easier but it has challenges. Our “entertaining ourselves” muscles are set to solo digital mode. Going without forces us to flex our creativity muscles; our brains work hard to fill the digital gap. Campers often express the feeling as “I was bored.” Picking up a deck of cards and asking someone to play Crazy Eights is a skill.
To prepare them, carve out some screen-free hours or days for your family. Even a few times will strengthen those muscles and ease their transition. Then, when the whole cabin is in digital withdrawal, you’ll put your child in a position to be the leader, the one who grabs the deck and starts dealing.
Parenting is more than a full-time job, camp is a tool designed to give you a helping hand. A little pre-work at home can make the camp experience even more effective!