Category: Parents Benefit

Sleepovers and summer camp teach kids important life skills

Reprint from the Washington Post

By Carolyn Butler
Forget empty-nest syndrome: I had a rough enough time recently sending my 6-year-old off to his first sleepover at a friend’s house.He was clearly more ready for this milestone than his father and I were: He’d been begging to go for weeks, and that afternoon, he sat on our steps eagerly waiting to be picked up — sleeping bag, glow-in-the-dark PJs and s’mores fixings in hand — as I worked at holding back tears.

While it can be hard to watch your children head off for sleepovers, sleepaway camp or even Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a few nights, such an event is a healthy and important step, says clinical psychologist Maureen Monaghan of Children’s National Medical Center.

“I think it is a great idea to give kids an experience of being on their own in a structured, supportive, supervised environment,” she says. The time away from parents provides an excellent opportunity for even young children to take initiative, exercise their autonomy and develop leadership, problem-solving and social skills, which often builds self-esteem, she explains. “Even just one night away from parents can be valuable. . . . It definitely challenges kids — it takes them out of their comfort environment — but it’s usually really positive, and we see a lot of growth and maturing.”

To learn more, I spoke with psychologist Michael Thompson, author ofHomesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow ,” about letting your kids go away and the associated benefits for the whole family.

Why is it so hard for today’s parents to separate from their children, at any age?

This generation of parents has invested an enormous amount of time in being emotionally close with their children and having very deep attachments. They’ve also invested an enormous amount in protecting their children from trauma. We have doubled the amount of time spent with children in the last 20 years. When you’re all in, it’s hard to step out — it’s just that simple.

Even though it can be difficult to send kids off to a sleepover or a full summer of camp, why is it valuable?

At some point, all children are going to have to be independent, and a safe place to practice that is camp, although we’re also talking about overnight school trips, boarding school, even a week at a relative’s house. A big, developmentally appropriate step for independence is sleeping away from your parents.

When you face challenges away from your parents, you know the victory belongs to you alone. If you are, in fact, homesick and you overcome it — which the vast majority of children do — it means that YOU beat it. It was painful, and you beat it. If you were uncomfortable on a canoe trip, a trail ride, a long hike, you know that you got through it: You either sucked it up on your own or got comfort from your friends or counselors, but it’s your achievement.

Okay, so you got stung by a bee: It was scary and painful, but you got over it and you recovered, which means that you can deal with all the bees in the world without your mom — the bees being a metaphor, of course, for all of the challenges in life. How do you know what makes you strong if Mom is always fetching your shoe out of the mud or standing there saying, “Oh, it’s not so bad”?

The problem with parents is that it’s very hard for them to recognize that at times they have a regressive effect on the lives of their children, and sometimes in order for kids to reach their full potential, they have to get away from that regressive pull.

Can that make a difference later in life as well?

I think camp is the best emotional preparation for a successful college experience, because you practice being on your own, keeping track of your clothes; you practice living in a community and getting along with roommates you don’t love — all of the skills you need for true independence. . . . It’s very helpful to start the process of learning to live independently and also in community earlier.

Perhaps the biggest psychological impact of camp is on resilience, on character and on learning to be a member of a community that’s separate from your family, who always cut you some slack and who have preconceived notions about you.

One of the things that troubles me about this generation is that we want our children endlessly challenged academically, but we don’t seem to want their resilience challenged in other ways. You can’t know you’re resilient until your resilience is challenged. And resilience or grit is key because it’s what gets you through the hard times in life. When you are in college, discouraged and overwhelmed, does your mother get you through? No. But the experience of being out in a thunderstorm on a hiking trip and knowing you survived — that just might.

If they like sleepovers and are curious about friends going away to camp, or if they’ve asked to go on a weekend with a friend, that’s a very good indication. In general, I’d say that kids are ready between 6 and 12, depending on temperament and style, but especially if your child has shown some resilience. The kids I worry about are those with anxiety disorders and depression — they are at risk — but plenty of these children do great, and I have even seen some camp experiences cure anxiety disorder. I’ve also seen some [of these children] not be able to finish camp.

How can nervous parents prepare a child for camp, boarding school or any other extended time away?

Start by sending your child to their grandparents’, to an aunt and uncle’s, or to a friend’s house for a sleepover: someplace with an adult they trust but where they get to be away and have to fall asleep without their usual bedtime ritual. The inner feeling for the child will be “Well, my aunt did things totally differently from my mom, but I fell asleep anyway and it was fine.” They now have a bigger range and know they are more resilient than they thought.

You should obviously address any medical needs like medication, a special diet or potential anxiety, and it’s important to sit down and talk about what to expect, all the issues. You should always acknowledge the possibility of homesickness; tell your child if you experienced it and share your own stories.

Homesickness is universal. Research shows that 97 percent of children report homesickness of one kind or another: Of that group, 81 percent is mild, and the kid gets over it in three to four days; 19 percent of kids who go to camp have some significant distress, and it’s a longer process. About a third of the latter — or six out of 100 children — have unremitting homesickness. But they are the heroes of my book, because more than half of them go back to sleepaway camp the next summer. Recently, a woman in Toronto said to me, “Oh my God, I had a terrible first year at camp.” I said, “What happened?” and she said, “I knew I had to go back.” I asked “Why?” and she said, “I just knew I had to go back and beat it.”

Go away for a weekend yourself and enjoy the time off! Oftentimes, parents are much more anxious than their kids, whether we’re talking about a sleepover or sleepaway camp. Children often look to their parents for cues on how to handle stressful situations, so as a parent, the best thing you can do is be positive, enthusiastic and encouraging. In your head, you might be worried about some things, about how it’s all going to go, but the message you want to convey to your child is that this is going to be an enjoyable, fun experience, and you’re excited for them.

June 18, 2012

Scared to send your kids to camp?

by Karen Meister

I just watched Meatballs — yes, the goofy camp movie with Bill Murray.  A classic for sure.  But the message was right on.  Rudy, the little guy who arrives at camp and clearly does not fit in spends the first day or so as an outcast and runs away from camp.  Bill Murray tracks him down at the local diner, and over a milk shake and french fries, convinces him to come back to camp.  Over the course of the summer, due to “no parental intervention”, Rudy begins to develop  competence, confidence and independence.

Amazing!

Through a friendship with Bill, he begins to practice running.  He develops an ability and strength the other kids don’t have.  He feels better about himself because although he can’t kick a soccer ball, he can run.  He is selected to save the camp’s last chance in the Apache Relay against arch-rival Camp Mohawk.  And the movie ends with Rudy on the shoulders of the whole camp.

He has gone from outcast to hero and in this simple (and often times silly story), you witness the beauty and magic of camp!

But it takes time for the process to unfold.  Many would think that if your child is shy or timid or you are nervous about or for them, a short experience at camp would be best.  It is actually the reverse.  If these characteristics describe your child, you need to give them the time to work through the fear, build the competence and confidence, and leave camp with a success.

Success is defined by accomplishing ANYTHING….  the perfect piece of pottery (in their eyes), the new skill of the balance beam, a hook shot, or getting up on waterskis.  It doesn’t happen over night, but it will happen, given the chance.

Don’t fear their time away.  Embrace it, find thngs to do on your own, and smother your child with hugs and kisses when they proudly return from sleepaway camp.

Important Caveat:  It is absolutely crucial to find the right camp.  Meatballs is a movie.  If your child is a bit shy, fearful, older or whatever it may be, it is critical to speak with a camp expert that knows the culture, personnel, size, etc. at different camps.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

 

Find Your Inner Child

by Karen Meister

I flew through the air with the greatest of ease, the daring old girl on the flying trapeze!!

I took three days, just three little days, and felt like I was away for a fantastic vacation.  It’s amazing how renewed you feel when you get away from your normal routine.  I went to tennis camp with a group of women who have the same passion for tennis as I do.  We played tennis for 5 hours a day.  This would not be heaven to everyone, but for us it was glorious.  We played, got to know each other, told stories, danced the night away, and yes I took a ride on the trapeze!

I had a blast and so did the women who joined me.  We were an international group from Miami to Hong Kong to New Jersey to Argentina.  Stories of our lives growing up were different and yet so similar.  We bonded within minutes of our arrival and left with new friends for life.  Yes, this is going to camp….

But I share this, not because I have to convince you that camp is good for your kids, but that sending your kids to camp is good for you too.  When you have little ones in the house, the time you get to yourself and/or you and your spouse, are so limited.  Needless to say, the kids always come first.  But, having an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the child inside is extraordinary.  Being able to relax long enough to have a belly laugh that makes you cry is glorious.  Just having the time to find the quiet place in your mind where you can remember what it was like to be carefree is such a gift.

Many have said they feel guilty sending their children to camp.  First and foremost, going away to camp is a gift, not a punishment.  Crucial to find the right camp, but it is a gift for sure.  Second, take advantage of the time you have to refresh yourself.  Make sure it is a gift for the whole family.

Tennis camp was so much fun for me, I am planning another one for the spring (if by chance you happen to have a passion for tennis).  But make sure you truly consider camp for your kids, so you too, can take some time to find your inner child!

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Adults Go To Camp Too

by Karen Meister

The best parent is the one that is a good role model.  Do as I do!!  Right?

Well, it’s my turn.  I’M GOING TO TENNIS CAMP!!!!

Can’t Wait!!  One of the programs with which I work is right up my alley.  And I MUST GO VISIT to make sure it is good, safe, offers everything they say, clean and more.

For anyone that knows me, even remotely, you know tennis AND camp are two of my greatest passions!  So in usual Karen style, I have to gather my pals to come play with me at camp.  And we are all so excited.

Camp is really terrific for kids and adults providing:

  • Physical Activity – Fresh air, blue skies, and away from a computer
  • Self-Definition - Trying new things, learning to achieve and getting positive reinforcement for those efforts
  • Structure and Clear Limits - A schedule of activities to attend that you can enjoy
  • Creative Self-Expression - Variety of offerings to experiment and explore without fear
  • Positive Social Interactions - Old and new friends who share common interests learning to live as a community
  • Competence and Achievement – Opportunity to enhance skills and feel good about the accomplishment
  • Meaningful Participation - Life long bonds that are made in such a short period of time

Do the right thing for yourself and your kids.  There is a program for everyone that will excite the mind and body.  If you are interested in adult camp opportunities, we can talk next week.  LOL!

Then we will talk about the kids!!  Cyber-hugs and have a great weekend!!  I know I will for sure.

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

 

 

 

Spring Break is Here!!

by Karen Meister

Yea!!  It’s Spring Break!!  A full week off of school, no lunches to make and tons of fun activities planned for the week.  If you are going away for the week, have a blast, be safe and enjoy every minute.

If you are staying home with the kiddies, and have many activities planned for the week, remember how you feel at the start of the week.  I will check back in with you at the end of the week to see if you are pulling your hair out.

Keeping the kids home for a full week without planned activities  can be fun but after a while, the enthusiasm starts to wane, the house becomes more messy and unruly, the kids are starting to get underfoot, and you have zero free time for yourself.  Your husband is begging for attention, that you are using up on the kids, and you, the momma get nada.

You are last on the list!  Right?

So why do I bring this up?  Twelve weeks of summer is a very long time and costs a lot of money to entertain a house full of kids.  And if in fact, you want to break up the twelve weeks with a short summer program (anywhere from 2 – 5 weeks), you at least make a dent at the long summer.

Just think about how our friends up north are feeling about winter right about now?  The first days of cold and snow were exciting and were ideal for the holidays.  Twelve weeks later?  Miami has had the greatest tourist season this year with people escaping that weather, regardless of the cost.  So…

Make sure you are set and plan ahead.  And please share your thoughts about spring break next week.  Can’t wait to hear!

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

 

Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift for the Summer

by Karen Meister

I really don’t have a one track mind.  But when was the last time you and your spouse were home alone for longer than a weekend?  When was the last time you came home after a long day and without any mixed emotions, without any guilty pull from parenting responsibilities, were able to just leisurely decide last minute to go to the beach for a late night stroll and eat outdoors?  Or just stay home and watch a movie on TV and crack open a bottle of wine and eat bread and cheese for dinner?

As an empty nester, I now have those opportunities and they are marvelous.  But I highly recommend having this opportunity while your children are still at home.  And sending your kids away from home,  for the right summer experiences, even if it is for a short three week stay, is THIS YEAR’S VALENTINE’S GIFT you and your spouse deserve.

So think about the reality.

1.  Your child or teen, placed in the right type of summer program for their needs and your criteria, will grow, develop, learn skills, make new friends, experience new opportunities, become more independent, build character and so much more.

2.  You will have a few weeks to recharge yourself.  Childless time at home gives you opportunities to pay a bit more attention to your personal needs.  We all know when days and lives are busy, the last person on your “take care of” list is yourself.

3.  And of course, with a few weeks of child care removed from your to do list, you and your spouse will have an opportunity to really reconnect.  You can certainly take the time to go away yourselves, but if finances become a bit tighter because the kids are going to camp, “staycations” are fantastic.

Invest in your children and invest in your marriage!!  Sleepaway camp and teen summer experiences are the best gift for the whole family.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

The Camp Network

by Karen Meister

This weekend, I sadly attended the funeral of the man who gave me my first tennis racket.  From humble beginnings, Tom Cundy (click to learn more) ultimately built a huge insurance company which is now run by one of his three sons.  Tom had friends, my Dad being one of them, that felt so special when Tom was around.  My Dad said that when Tom entered the room, the lights would get brighter.  He was an incredible connector, a networker, certainly a salesman, but so damn good at it.  His ability to remember names, genuinely understand their needs and give thoughtful gifts made it very easy to feel good when Tom was around.

Tennis and competition got him his start.  Raised by his mom, his Kentucky high school tennis coach took Tom under his wing and really served as his mentor.  Helping him to understand dedication, drive, and good principals, his coach helped him secure a tennis scholarship to FSU.  Tom moved to South Florida and was launched.

His three boys, who I had not seen in many years, were most certainly trained in the TC handshake, smile and greeting. Their respectfulness, manner, work ethic, and continued networking was clearly passed from one generation to the next.  The coach not only changed one man’s life but many generations following.

When I travel each summer, and attend full summer camps, I am struck by many camps where the “young men and women” are truly being taught the grand principals of sportsmanship, competition, teamwork, dedication, and are naturally networking with a fine group of young people from around the world.

I am often asked for camps where there are kids that are not snobby (or fill in the word I won’t use), but  a camp where kids are “down to earth”.  Within each camp, there is a child or two that comes from a “snooty” home.  But alas, there are many camps that take these children and return them with balance, strength and principals.  As I have said to many who equate affluence with snottiness, the two are not mutually exclusive.  A parent’s financial status has zero to do with a child’s principals.

If you are fortunate enough to choose to send your child to a full summer camp which most certainly comes at a high price, keep in mind that your child will probably devote 6 or 7 years to a network of friends that they will have for life.  They will be trained in the same principals, manners and views and will potentially be the person your son and daughter will call to sell insurance, select as a future business partner, contact to invest in their marketing idea…..

Don’t be blown away by the magnitude of a camp experience on the life of your child.  Embrace it and think about it.  Camp is so much more than a baseball game…

 

Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at Karen@CampExperts.com or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

S’mores Cups

  • 7 whole graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • 4 bars milk chocolate candy
  • 12 large marshmallows

You are going to be shocked how easy these are.
Step 1:
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Place graham crackers into a large resealable plastic bag. Finely crush into crumbs using Baker’s Roller®;. Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar and butter in Small Batter Bowl

Step 2:
Using Small Scoop, place scant scoop of crumb mixture in each cup of a Mini-Muffin Pan. Press crumbs to form shallow cups with Mini-Tart Shaper. Bake 4-5 minutes or until edges are bubbling

Step 3:
While the crust is in the oven, break two of the candy bars into rectangles. Remove pan from oven; place one rectangle into each cup.

Step 4:
Cut marshmallows in half crosswise using shears dipped in cold water. Place one marshmallow half, cut-side down, into each cup. Return to oven 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows are just slightly softened. Remove from oven to a cooling rack; cool 15 minutes. Carefully remove cups from pan. Cool completely.

Step 5:
Break remaining candy bars and place in (1-cup/250 mL) Prep Bowl. Microwave on HIGH 1 minute-1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 20 seconds. Dip the top of each marshmallow in melted chocolate. Turn top-side up and let stand 40 minutes-1 hour or until set.

Yield: 24 cups
Store the cups in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Freezing is not recommended. For a richer chocolate flavor, substitute dark chocolate candy bars for the milk chocolate.