A Parent's Part in Kids' Camp

How to get involved in your child’s summer experience

by Cheri Evans

“Mom, I’m home!” Wearing a week’s worth of dirt, your camp T-shirt-clad child bursts through the door, dragging a sleeping bag and suitcase. A big grin hints at a week packed with memories.

You may feel set apart from your child’s adventure because you weren’t there. However, a successful camp experience depends on your participation. Preparing a child for camp involves significant time and effort. I remember my parents attempting to tie a bedroll, loading film in my camera, and making sure my flashlight had batteries. These may be necessary, but you can do a few additional, more important things to be involved.

Ready, Set, Go!
Before camp, take part in your child’s experience by packing together. Let your son or daughter help decide what to take, and include favorite items—they’ll make it home if your child likes them. Help ensure this by writing his or her name on the tags.

As you pack, discuss how much money your child will be allowed to spend on activities, snacks, and souvenirs. (Check the camp brochure or website to find out about additional fees.) Don’t forget to send money for a group picture if the cost isn’t included. The photograph will hold many memories for your camper.

Also, talk with your child about what to expect during the time away. A Christian camp is an excellent place to establish wholesome, lasting friendships, develop respect for creation, experience new activities, and learn to make decisions. Pray together about any fears your child has. It’s best not to say, “Just call me if you get homesick.” A child won’t forget those words, and this can cause problems. The site may not allow campers to call home, and highlighting homesickness sets children up for it. Camp staff know how to help campers navigate those feelings.

While You Were Out
Once your child is at camp, it’s time for you to get involved from home. Mailing a letter before he or she leaves so it arrives on the second day will make your camper feel especially loved. Say you’re proud he or she is at camp, and don’t focus on big events happening at home. Kids enjoy receiving mail midweek, too, when they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel—the end of camp. And they’ll find it exciting to receive a letter at the end of the week assuring them you’re looking forward to their return.

Throughout the week, pray about goals related to your child’s needs. What happens at camp can significantly contribute to his or her spiritual development. Also, pray for safety, health, friends, and the counselor and other camp staff.

Back to Reality
You can help your child transition to everyday life after camp in several ways. Pick up your camper on time—children find it devastating to be the only one left behind. And post a “welcome home” sign on the front door.

Remember that your son or daughter will be still wrapped up in camp and may not be as delighted to see you. Camp days are usually full of activity, and facing a sudden change of pace can make a grouch out of an angel. Also, your child has just said goodbye to counselors and new friends. When you get home, provide extra time for your child to rest.

The second evening after your child’s return is a good night to set aside to focus on what happened at camp. He or she may have an attitude that everything at camp was ideal, making comments like, “Our youth group is dead, but at camp…” Kids tend to experience a spiritual high at camp; help your child understand the need to follow through on decisions and grow by going to church and daily spending time with God. This is a great opportunity to begin or renew a prayer time together.

Camp is over, and your child’s heart has been changed. Spend time with him or her, and trust God to use your follow-up to change a young life for eternity.

Cheri is a supervising teacher in the home-schooling program for the Orange County Department of Education in Fullerton, California. She was the associate director at Pine Summit from 1979 to 1992, and then served as a camp consultant.

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