Over the next few weeks, many parents will be helping their children pack their bags and prepare to head off to camp. While the experience will ultimately be wonderful for the campers, the sendoff can be a bit stressful, so we asked Carter Breazeale, Director of Alpine Camp for Boys (located just outside of Chattanooga) for advice on how to set kids—and grownups!—up for success. Here are her recommendations:
Before they go:
• Pick a camp with great counselors. They are what makes your child’s experience. My dad always said that with an outstanding staff, you could have a great camp in a parking lot. Ask your potential camp’s directors how they hire their staff.
• Get the inside scoop on what to pack from the parents of a longtime camper. They’ll give you the skinny on the essential items—from Crazy Creek chairs to mesh laundry bags—that aren’t on the packing list.
• If your child feels nervous about missing home, remind them that those feelings are totally normal. Don’t promise to pick them up if they get homesick; such a promise will keep them from really settling into camp. Remind them that even their counselors miss home sometimes and they can talk to them.
While they are at camp:
• Steep in some good books that echo what your child gets at camp. Some of Alpine’s favorites include The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Last Child in the Woods, Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, and Rachel Carson’s A Sense of Wonder.
• Get ready to build on what they will bring home. Camp establishes good habits—living without electronic screens, eating three square meals a day, going to bed and waking up early, saying you are sorry face-to-face. One reason I love camp is that it sets up those healthy rhythms I really want and need. Reap the benefits, and embrace those new rhythms as a family.
• Save their memories before they return. Last summer, my twin daughters went off for 25 days for the first time. I pulled photos from the camp website into a slideshow that we watched together when they got home, and their memories started pouring out. It’s also a good idea to have a place ready for them to keep the little tangible things that take them back to camp throughout the year.
TSG Tip 108: from Carter Breazeale of Alpine Camp for Boys in Mentone, AL.