by Karen Meister
This was a great summer! I have been fortunate to receive feedback from so many of the families I have sent on summer experiences. But there were a few special phone calls worth sharing because they represent situations in which many may find themselves. And these types of calls make my “job” as your Camp Expert so very rewarding.
CALL ONE - HOMESICKNESS
I spoke to a mom during the summer regarding homesickness. Her child suffered a couple of years ago, skipped camp the following year, and then went to a new camp this year. Mom was hoping the change in camp would alleviate the problem, but alas, this was not the case. Because she was concerned that homesickness would be a problem, arrangements were made to allow phone calls to be made home. Although she loved the activities, she was unhappy. Mom agreed that
- The goal was to help her daughter overcome her homesickness and successfully enjoy camp.
- The plan: I suggested she call the camp director AND the front line counselor and ask them to be part of the team to help her daughter find success at camp. The camp diverted her away from using phone calls as a way to solve problems and the mom was not going to be available every second to receive a call if in fact, it came in. The child had a go-to counselor for the special time, special hug or anything she needed during her stay.
- The result: mom called and said that her daughter is happy, healthy, and wants to stay at camp.
- The lesson: feeling homesick is a normal transition for many people (including adults). However, in order to grow and ultimately become an independent adult, you must allow your child to find a solution to the problem and move on towards success. It takes time to get to independent living and if time allows, please let your children go to camp for a minimum of 3 weeks.
CALL TWO – THE RIGHT FIT
A mom had a child that attended camp where the neighbors went. Every year she came home unhappy and every year, the parents felt that she would figure out how to be happy. The price was good, the place was safe and she would just figure it out as she grew up a little bit more. But finally, as an avid follower of LifeMeisters, and receiving articles for years, she finally called.
She called to say thank you AND to tell me that she was absolutely amazed that through a phone conversation, I was able to help her find the most perfect program for her daughter. She wanted to know how I could possibly have done this without ever meeting her daughter in person. My answer is really three-fold.
1. After 13 years as a Camp Expert, I have personally visited programs around the country, learned about the population they serve and “don’t serve”, the camp directors’ personalities and purpose, and of course, the activities.
2. I have learned how to be an “active listener”. A technique used typically by therapists, I have learned to truly listen to the dynamic of the entire family and ask very directed questions to help a parent really open up during our confidential chat.
3. I have been through it already personally…. I am your big sister!
CALL THREE – Middle Schoolers Change
Five years ago, I placed a set of twins at a wonderful camp and both of the kids were happy… a boy and a girl. Five years go by and the girl continues to be deliriously happy and the boy is the exact opposite. The parents both called to say that there must be something terribly wrong with the boys side of camp that after five years, their son is so terribly unhappy. We discussed possible bullying situations, the potential that there was truly a problem on boy’s side, and then we discussed the natural progression of maturation during young adolescent years.
Their son was not interested in the social girl scene as were many of the other boys at this stage. He wanted to continue to play ball, be dirty, and be a kid. The pressure of the coed camp was no longer a good fit. The camp had not changed, but he was developing at a different rate than many of the other kids in his group. We found a new program nearby that was a better fit for his current stage of life and he is soooo happy. We made sure visiting days at two camps could be accommodated and both kids AND parents are happy.
Moral of the story: Don’t be hard on yourself or your kids if they don’t stay with the same camp for their whole life. There is so much world to see and for many, especially during those middle school years, an alternative program is very appropriate.
If you are looking for a summer camp, looking for a switch, or just curious as to what might be available for your child, teen and/or family, let’s get to know each other. It will be fun!!
Karen Meister, in 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.