Supporting Your Camper’s First (or Fourth) Time at Camp
The other day we were gifted with an afternoon in the mid-60s here at Camp. The sun was shining and the birds were singing and all I could think about was how excited I am for Summer!
Chances are you’re excited about Summer too and counting down the days until you arrive at Kanata. There’s also a possibility that you might not be looking forward to Camp as much as you thought you would or, maybe, you’re worried Camp will feel different this year. I want you to know that all of your feelings are OK and even I, the Camp Director, have felt a little worried about Camp over the years.
Parents and caregivers, we know how important the Camp experience is for our kids. Camp is an opportunity to grow independence, resilience, new skills and, most importantly, a chance to make friendships that will last a lifetime. Many of our kids know the benefits of Camp from their perspective too - it’s a crazy amount of fun with friends and the counselors are the best! ideo
We also know that for some of our first-time campers (and some who’ve been here before), the thought of coming to Camp can bring on a lot of worry and anxiety. The good news is that this is completely normal and we want to provide some strategies for how we can support each other as we look forward to Camp this summer.
Often the largest source of anxiety for first-time campers comes from the fear of the unknown: Where will I sleep? What will I eat? What will it feel like to be away from home? Who will take care of me?
The important thing for us to remember as parents is that these are real fears, and we need to treat them as legitimate concerns. Our website has a lot of great information you can share with your camper that will help them begin to form a picture of what camp will be like.
You can also schedule a tour of Camp on our website as well. This is a great way for you and your camper to see and feel what Camp is like before arriving.
Another strategy to help your first-time camper is to sign them up with a friend! That’s what I did the first time I came to Kanata, and it helped me feel better about being away from home for the first time. Especially because my friend had been to Camp before.
Sometimes campers develop anxiety about coming to Camp after a year or two of attending each summer. For each camper there could be a number of reasons why they are experiencing anxiety for the first time. The important thing is to listen as they share their feelings. If it feels right, redirecting them to their memories of Camp, watching videos or slideshows, or reading past letters home may help them reconnect to the safety and joy they felt in previous years. As with first-time campers, it may be good to invite a friend to Camp to add another level of excitement for them.
Preparing Our Campers Well
Regardless of whether your camper is experiencing anxiety about this summer or not, we can all do a few things to support our campers in having an amazing summer at Camp!
If you went to Camp as a kid, share your memories of summer camp with your camper.
Pick out a trunk, duffel bag, or other pieces of luggage and slowly fill it with camp essentials.
Parents and caregivers, make sure you are modeling the positive, hopeful feelings you want your camper to feel!
Plan which activities your camper will focus on during their time at camp.
Spend time looking at the website with your camper and help them answer their own questions.
Missing home is normal for kids of all ages when they come to camp. Let your camper know that it’s normal to miss home and that they will have a great time while they are missing home. Avoid the term “homesick” if you can. I have found that it makes a camper feel like they are stuck and can’t get out of it.
Sending your child to camp is the beginning of a partnership between Camp and your family. If there’s any way we can support you as you prepare for Camp this summer, or if you want to share specifics about your camper, please email me.
I can’t wait to see you this summer!
Until next time...
Links for Further Reading
A Thankful Heart
As the leaves change color and fall a smell deeply rooted in my childhood fills the air. I’m always hesitant to share my love for the aromas of fall because most people conjuring dead leaves, pumpkins drooping on front stoops and the world falling asleep for winter. There are smells I love in every season, but the smell of fall reminds me of jumping in leaf piles, walking in the woods, and burning bonfires in the backyard. I’m grateful for those memories and the joy they bring.
Fall is also a time when those of us who work here at Camp begin to turn our attention towards the future. We register campers for the following summer, receive CILT and CIT applications and begin to hire new staff. As the days grow cooler and shorter we find ourselves already planning for the warm sunny days of summer we love so much.
It’s also a time of great thanksgiving here at Camp. This year we have a lot to be thankful for even though this year is unlike any other in our more than 65-year history:
This summer we served over 1,500 campers through our Summer Day Camp.
We served over 250 families through Camping Out at Kanata, our first-ever Summer Family Camp.
Our staff this summer served campers and families safely with no known cases of COVID-19, something for which we are both proud and extremely grateful.
Since August 24, 2020, we have served nearly 100 children through our Scholastic Support Center and Track Out Camp programs.
Our Camp Kanata Family rallied to help close our financial gap and, together, we have raised over $390,000 to date!
Registration is strong for Summer 2021, and we are grateful for the trust parents have in our commitment to safety.
This year brought a myriad of challenges that have taught us more than we thought possible and encouraged us to be even more creative than before. You can play GaGa Ball with your feet! Social distancing is easy in a canoe! Eventually wearing a mask feels normal. Our traditions don’t change even when circumstances do which means Camp will always feel like Camp. And maybe one of the more special learnings is that parents can enjoy Camp as much (or maybe even more) than their kids!
I hope you’ll take some time this month to reflect on what you’re grateful for this year. Our family has a “Joy Jar” that we add to over the year, writing significant moments on pieces of paper. Start one with your family and read it each November to remember a year’s worth of thankful memories.
I’ve found joy this year playing my guitar, walking with my family in the woods, and searching for happiness in the smallest moments. And I have found joy from you all, my Camp Kanata family.
The Camp Kanata team and I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Until next time...