Tips For Parents - Campers Adjusting to Camp
Thank you for enrolling your child in the UW-Green Bay Summer Camp program! We are celebrating over 46 years of summer camp programming for middle and high school students. We assure you that the camp staff are dedicated to the health, safety, well-being and overall development of your child. We take camper supervision very seriously, and have compiled information from our years of experience that we hope you will find helpful.
Below you will find a listing of tips to help you and your child have a successful overnight camp experience. Though most all campers have such a great experience they would like to stay longer, sometimes younger campers take a bit longer to adjust to the routine and schedule. As parents you can prepare your child for this life-changing camper experience. Please be sure to read the Housing Handbook provided for you that explains many details about overnight camp experience on the UW-Green Bay campus.
Summer Camp Tips:
(Some points are taken from a published report in the journal of Pediatrics 2006, written by Dr. Christopher Thurber, Ph.D., research consultant with the American Camping Association.)
- Homesickness prevention is the key to a healthy, positive camp experience. Involve your child in the decision to spend time away from home, so he/she has a sense of control. Know whether your child is really ready for a separation. If you're not sure, ask the child's doctor - but not when the child can hear the conversation.
- Arrange for your child to practice time away from home, such as an overnight vacation with relatives or friends.
- Work with your child ahead of time to learn about the camp, so he/she knows what to anticipate. Read all of the literature provided by the camp, check out the camp's website and ask questions to those who have attended in the past. If you don't have that resource call the camp office. We're here to assist you!
- Before the separation, don't make comments that express anxiety or ambivalence about your child going away. Even "I hope you'll be okay" or "what will I do without you" can leave a child worried that something bad might happen to them or to you, and make them preoccupied with thoughts of home.
- Arrange (ahead of time) when your child can call you. Not so long ago kids wrote letters home and parents provided stamped envelopes. The trend is quickly changing to cell phone 'touchbases.' At UWGB, cell phone use is not permitted during the instructional part of the day. After all, campers are here to learn and phone calls/texts can be a significant distraction from the purpose of being at camp. Cell use IS permitted during a camper's free time, dinner time and during evening activities.
- If your child brings a cell phone to camp, understand that they may be collected at bed-check in the evening. We have found that it is usually not wise to talk with your child right before bed. This tends to be the most sensitive time of the camper's day, and some students feel worse at this time. A better connection time would be at the dinner hour.
- If your child is homesick, do not make repeated calls throughout the day. Calls to mom or dad tend to make homesickness worse, and kids (with hopes of being picked up) don't settle in to the routine as they should.
- If your child is homesick, DO NOT pick up your child the first or second day of camp. If there still is a homesick problem on the third night, the child would be best served by going home. However, don't even think of picking up your child without first talking with our head counseling staff, who are experts in helping kids adjust. There is no refund for kids who leave camp due to homesickness. We will work with you and do everything we can to keep your child at camp.
- DO NOT plan to pick up your child mid-week to go out to dinner, go shopping, go to a game etc. Some students never "settle-in" to the routine because they know that their home connection is only a few days away.
- No news is GOOD NEWS! Don't panic if you don't get a call. This means that he/she has adjusted to the program and is having a great time! This is all part of the growing process. They are all instructed to call home late-week to let you know about pick-up times etc. Do not make an unexpected call to see how they are doing.
- Warn your child against keeping feelings of homesickness to themselves, doing something 'bad' in order to get sent home, or trying to escape.
- If your child takes medicine for attention, behavior or psychological conditions, don't use camp as an excuse to take a 'drug holiday.' Make sure that they, and the camp staff know the medicine schedule. (All medications are collected when campers check-in.) Taking medicine away from an already anxious situation is a perfect setup for failure. The goal is to keep as many things as stable as possible, so your child can learn to adapt to the new environment.
- When you talk with your child about being picked up, i.e. what time the concert is, when to check-out etc., do not say things like "the dog misses you," "one of your fish died," "the cat won't get up off of your pillow," or other sentimental things like that.These heart tugs can be too difficult for kids to handle!
In a nutshell, only you know your child and whether he or she is ready to separate from you. The key is in the preparation, so that homesickness is not as significant while at the camp.
If you have any other questions about adjusting to an overnight camp experience, feel free to give us a call. Our head counselor's office is in operation from June 8-August 1. That phone number is 920-465-2742, 24/7 access, the general camp phone is 920-465-2267 (M-F business hours) or you can email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to working with your child at summer camp!