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How to Make Summer Camp More Like Home

Sep 7, 2008
"Home is where the heart is"... "There's no place like home."..."Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to." No matter how you look at it, or which quote you choose to go by, our sense of "home" is a powerful one. As children home is (ideally) a safe haven - a place where we they can be themselves, and are protected and safe with parents and family.

But, summer's here and parents may want to encourage their children to enjoy new experiences and new friends through giving them the opportunity to attend summer camp. For many children this will be their first longer-term sojourn away from home. As parents it's important to have a discussion around what this will be like, and to discuss possible ways that they might make their experience feel safe, cozy and more like home. It's an important step in teaching children that a sense of home can come from the inside, as well as from the home they live in.

One way of encouraging a sense of home while away at camp is to bring some familiar and meaningful items that your children can set up around their bunk space. Posters, pictures, magazines clipping are some ideas to start with. Maybe your children have a particular family photo that they're fond of. You could have it blown up and laminated, so they can tack it above their bed.

Another practical way of helping your children feel safe away from home is to encourage them to set up a safe bunk. Make sure they have a flash light, and a back-up. Send them with a personal first aid kit that they can keep near their bunk and show them all its contents and their applications.

If the camp has top and bottom bunks, you might want to discuss with your child in advance, which they would prefer. Sleeping up high can be daunting if children have never experienced this before. Prearrange with the camp to find a bunk suitable to your child's preferences.

You'll definitely want to discuss homesickness, and strategies to deal with it. You might try discussing these coping strategies and then writing them down with your child in a special journal that they can refer to when away. Some suggestions might include:

- Go see a camp counselor to talk about feelings of homesickness. Ensure your child that's what camp counselors are for and that they won't be weak for seeking help.

- Encourage them to write a letter home and talk about all their feelings in that letter. Let it all out. (you can send your child with pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes to make letter writing easier for them.)

- Suggest that they think about the activities they enjoy most at the camp- and go do them! Teach them that by thinking positively, they'll soon forget their homesickness.

Another great way to prepare your child for this time away from home is to set up some practice week-ends away from home. When your child returns from these excursions, discuss with them how their time was. Encourage them to keep a journal about these times, and to record any positive or negative feelings they had about being away from home.

Be thorough about researching the particular camp your child will be attending. Go through web sites, orientation booklets, talk to friends who attended the camp previously, look at photos and if possible you might make a trip to check out the site before the actual camp dates.

A calendar, with the dates away highlighted, might be a good thing to give your child when they are away. This way they can see visually that their time away from home is not an eternity, but is a discrete and measurable amount of time.

Avoid making a "pick-up deal" with your child, as this might only encourage them to bail out from the experience. As hard as it can be for both child and parent, they will learn very important life lessons being away from home and in this stimulating environment. To offer such a bail out situation also diminishes your faith in their ability to follow through and work through their emotions and fears. Essentially you undermine all the work you've done together to prepare for this experience.

Work together with your child, and they'll gradually learn that, "home is where the heart is" - wherever they may be.
About the Author
The Koitz Group offers elite real estate services in the greater Bethesda/Chevy Chase and Washington DC area (and they have a website that covers it all!). Visit the Koitz Group's Washington DC real estate guide or Georgetown DC homes guide, packed full of information, search tools, and links to other fine neighborhoods in the DC Metro area.
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