The end of summer camp and the return to home and school can be an emotional and challenging transition for both parent and child. No one wants to rush the close of summer but this camp season does end soon (sadly). These tips will assist you in helping transition your children back into their normal family life.
Arm yourself with a lot of patience and restraint! You have a million questions to ask, and you want to know every little detail as soon as your children are back home, but they need time to decompress. Hold back a bit on all the questions you want to ask about your children's experiences until they have had time to reflect on them and process their thoughts. They will be ready to discuss in their own time and at their own pace.
When kids get back home from camp, what they will most likely need and want is some downtime to reconnect with friends and family and catch up on sleep! After a fully scheduled summer of activities, allow them unstructured time before the start of school without a new schedule of activities.
How can you tell if the camp experience was positive?
These tips will help you assess your child's camp experience:
- Did your child make any new friends? Is he/she talking about staying in touch with them?
- Do you see indications of increased independence, responsibility and teamwork?
- Did your child acquire any new interests or skills?
- Did your child improve current skills?
Reinforce New Important Behaviors
Summer camp should have taught your child important life skills. Here is how to reinforce those new behaviors:
- Camp has taught your child chores he/she may not have had at home, such as making the bed, cleaning up and even meal tasks. Don't fall prey to old habits.
- Camp has promoted making new friends, writing (instead of texting), verbal communication, appreciation and enjoyment of the outdoors, teamwork and responsibility.
- Camp has shown him/her that fun is possible through 'unplugging,' without cell phones, electronic devices, television and electronic games.
This new kind of healthy fun and lifestyle should be encouraged and continued throughout the school year. Partner with your child to keep these summer behaviors alive year-round!
What to do if Your Child Has a Negative Camp Experience
First, evaluate your child's experience. A damaged self-esteem by a negative camp experience may be manifested by changes in patterns of:
- Activity levels
Make sure you understand exactly what contributed to his/her dissatisfaction before changing camps - it may be something minor that can be changed. The grass is not always greener.
But a seriously unhappy child should not be forced to return to an unsatisfactory environment. Learn what did not meet his/her needs and use this knowledge to research new summer options for next summer. Start the process early to allow enough time for effective vetting and due diligence.
Give constructive feedback to the camp director
Let the Director know your child's likes and dislikes about his/her experience with:
- Level of instruction
- Out-of-camp trips
Ask to meet with the Director in person to address any serious concerns. Remember there are always two (or more) sides to a story. The Directors really want to hear from parents and appreciate your feedback. They may not always hear from the children and are constantly looking for ways to improve their camps. A professional Director knows when it is time to have a child move on, where he/she can be more successful as a camper.
Prepare for the school year
Now is the time to establish rules with your child. Have him/her participate to maximize their "buy-in" and commit to realistic parameters for:
- Completion of summer reading
- After-school activities (but remember to not over-schedule)
- Electronic usage, television
- Home responsibilities
- Adjust bedtime gradually to get your child used to an earlier schedule again, just like at camp!
- Plan for a weekly family meeting to discuss school and family goals – a great stress reducer and reminder for parents!
Remember to re-enroll in camp early for next summer to secure your child's space and take advantage of any camp-provided early bird discounts.
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