Category: Summer Archives

Are they gone yet?

by Karen Meister

The planning and packing are complete.  School has ended and now the waiting begins…. for many.  So many camps and teen programs start right after Father’s Day.

So, what do you do from now until then?  If you planned well, the kids are either doing pre-summer programs like day camps or “mommy” camp or your teens are sleeping in and happy to do a little down time.  You may have even planned a family trip for pre-camp weeks.  I am loving the pictures I see on Facebook of all the activities — from the Islands to Europe to up in Canada to stay-cations — we do live in Paradise!

Now, if you did not plan well for this time, you have extra humans in the house ALL THE TIME!!  If you are both working parents, you may have a caregiver in the house for the full day and I’m sure you are coming home to slight chaos.  If you are at home with the kids, then you are either having a great time meeting other friends and their kids for some low key activities OR you are spending plenty of money on activities to keep the kids busy.

TICK TOCK TICK TOCK!! When are they leaving for camp????

The kids want to leave and you are happy too.  And that is what it is supposed to be like.  You are not getting rid of your kids.  You are exposing them to learning ne wthings, meeting new people and growing independently.

Now, what about you?  What will you be doing this summer with the extra time you have while the kids are away?  Yes, yes, the closet cleaning is always top of the list.  But what else?  What is your passion?  What are your dreams?  Are you traveling?  Will you spend time reacquainting with your spouse?

Share your plans and your ideas.  You never know who you will inspire or who will inspire you!!

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.

 

Returning Home

by Karen Meister

“Re-entry for grown-ups vs. kids”….

A trip of a lifetime…. saved my pennies, took time (when for business reasons, didn’t have it to take), saw the greatest players in tennis in the most fantastic tennis facility in Melbourne, Australia, beautiful sites, great food, terrific friends, the stressors of home and work life disappeared for a glorious two weeks, and my electronic communication was limited to the hotel room where I had wi-fi…..

And now I’m back.  Exhausted, jet lagged, need to take care of business, back to the routine of daily life, and I have a bit of a cold.

Why do I share these details?  Certainly not to complain… not my nature.  But…

WHAT IS RE-ENTRY LIKE FOR YOUR KIDS AT THE END OF THE SUMMER  And how close to the start of school should you allow them to stay away?

Summer camp, summer trips, summer experiences take your kids on a new adventure.  And they leave the cares, woes, stressors and most importantly, electronics behind.  The longer they get to be away from home and imbedded in their different world, the greater is the long term  impact on their new behaviors and ability to maintain calm and order.

Yes, most certainly re-entry can be challenging.  And the older the child, the longer it does take to adjust to returning home.  Why?

The younger child comes home, has lot to share, needs a really good bath from head to toe and back, and clean sheets for sleeping.  And that’s it!  They may need to brush up on a little reading to get the cobwebs out of their academic portion of their brains.  Done.

A teen also has plenty to share, definitely needs a good shower, some space to chill, sensitivity to their newfound independence, and lots of sleep.  Cobweb maintenance and they are good to go.

Us grownups need to do loads of laundry, put the suitcases away, go through the mail and pay the overdue bills, clean out the refrigerator because you left that one hidden lemon in the back, and get dressed and go to work ASAP.

Moral of the story:  do not assume your child has the same difficulty with re-entry as you believe you would.  If your child gets home 2-3 days before the start of school, don’t worry.  Think about what THEY truly must do to properly re-enter, and not you.

As for this traveler, “there is no place like home”….

 

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.

Refresh Refresh

by Karen Meister

All of a sudden, you have some free time.  The endless hours of childcare don’t exist right now because the kids have left for sleepaway camp.  You have a list of projects you are thinking about tackling while they are gone.  But, you just can’t seem to step away from the computer.  Of course, the camps post endless pictures of the kids at play and you MUST make sure that you see the pictures “hot off the presses” — so to speak.  And if you don’t see your child each day, in some new activity with a smile on their face, you have to call the camp and ask if he/she is alive, happy, hurt, sad, or who knows what.

Imagine how the kids feel.  During the summer, they are supposedly trying to get away from anything electronic.  Their cell phones have been extricated, they no longer get email, they have to write letters using paper and pencil (they have forgotten how to use them), and some photographer is constantly in their face to appease mom in front of the computer at home.  UGH!!!

I most certainly was guilty of the same, but was able to eventually pry myself away from the computer and found so many great things to do with that wonderful extra time during the summer.   So what to do with that extra time??

I am so curious to find out what activities are on your list.  Please participate in our survey and we’ll let you know what the results say.  Click here to take the survey.

So just remember, while your kids are ducking the photographer because it makes it harder to sink that basket, or hit an awesome serve, or make the napkin holder for you, or practice for the play during visiting day, practice what you are preaching to the kids.

Go live…  Unplug… Strive for independence…. Learn new things…. Make new friends….  Enjoy!!

 

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.

Packing for Camp

by Karen Meister

There is so much going on right now that my head is spinning.  All the kids are in one awards ceremony after another, the tension is mounting for finals and AP exams, there are a whopping 11 days left of school, and I still have not planned my summer.  Granted, this is what I am hearing from all the families that are calling me in a panic.

I absolutely cannot have my kids home ALL summer watching TV and playing video games.

Needless to say, there are still so many programs that have space and interesting, engaging activities for children and teens of all ages.  Even college kids are venturing out on travel programs, internships and community service ventures that are out of this world.  But today, let’s applaud and provide information for those who DID plan ahead.

The to-do list, if organized, is very manageable and certainly can be a team effort with your kids.

  • Plan Ahead — The camp will be sending you a list of items that are required, whether they go for 2 weeks or 7.  Beyond shopping for clothing, the order ahead list will include:  duffle bags and name labels that go on EVERYTHING.  In addition, you need to know when the truck will be picking up the duffles in order to work backwards and deliver the bags to the loading site on time.  In addition, if you are sending your kids to a uniform camp, you need to order those items in advance.
  • Review Camp Packing Lists — Individual camps should provide a recommended camp packing list, complete with any required equipment, preferred footwear, etc. Be sure to carefully review what is needed, with special attention to those items that may not be permitted at camp. Before packing your camper’s favorite game system or cell phone, be sure that the camp permits electronic items. Most camps do not allow electronic items in camp or at least out of the cabin.
  • Label Everything — Laundry pens, iron-ons, and press and stick labels will distinguish your camper’s belongings from those of other cabin or tent mates. Most camps ask that you label each item, including clothing, personal items, and toiletries. Make sure that your child can identify the label used.
  • Break in Shoes and Boots Before Camp Begins — Make sure that your child’s clothing and footwear are comfortable and appropriate. Sending a camper in brand-new hiking boots can result in sore feet and time spent sitting out of exciting activities.
  • Prepare Together — Decisions about camp, like what to pack, should be made together. The more ownership your camper has in these decisions, the easier the adjustment and transition to camp will be.

As you probably know by now, I have three sons.  When they were younger, we had six duffle bags and tons of clothes and hand me downs that would go to camp.  I no longer labeled their clothes with their first and last names.  I just used the last name for “reusability” – a very important budgetary feature.  The spreadsheet consisted of the following headings:

ITEM……… QUANTITY……… NOTES………… PACKED………… RE-PACKED…………. RETURNED

So now began the game with reward.  Everyone had to pack their own “stuff”.  They completed their spreadsheet and placed the items in front of their duffles for my review.  (It sounds like drill Sargent tactics but we made it into a game — at least at the beginning — LOL!).  We would check off all the items together and place them in the bags.  A copy of the spreadsheet was put into the duffle bag and went to camp.  At the end of the summer, they had their list and went scurrying around looking for all the items on the list, would check it off as they  put it BACK into the duffle to come home. A week after their return from camp, their smelly bags would make it home and we unpacked and checked off to see which one of the boys brought home the most “stuff”.  Every year, it was the same winner and he typically brought back everything.  An age appropriate prize was awarded and we had a system each year that became a part of their excitement to go back to camp.

What I want to know now is what kind of extras you send to camp for your kids.  The days of “care packages” are history.  With the nut, gluten, dairy, horse, dog and human hair allergies around, you can’t send anything to camp anymore.  Not to mention the egos that will be bruised if one child gets a bigger package than the next.  But share your thoughts… What do you send to camp that is beyond the list provided?

 

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.

A Passion and Goal – Diana Nyad

by Karen Meister

At 29 years old, Diana Nyad made her first attempt to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys.  A swim of 110 miles through the ocean, through sharks, through jelly fish, overwhelming waves, salt water and exhaustion.  Diana, a graduate of Pine Crest in Fort Lauderdale (I am a ’74 alumn) was one of many incredible swimmers that were trained in the PC pool.  Many Olympic and world champions, such as Andy Coan, considered by many, to be the world’s all time greatest high school swimmer and world record holder in the 100 meter freestyle, came from that PC pool.  Ann Marshall, 1972 Olympian and world record breaker in the 200 meter free; and so many more.

Was it the Ft. Lauderdale water?  The atmosphere of other strong competitive swimmers during Diana’s formative years that propelled her to continue to strive to realize her dream so many years later?  Did he help to set the stage?  Open her eyes?  Give her skills?  If not swimming, did she have a desire to do something else with her life?  Is she crazy??

Could be all of the above.  I find that most people have the greatest challenge when it comes to step one — the passion.

  • HAVE A PASSION.  
  • SET A GOAL.  
  • FLESH OUT THE PLAN.
  • IMPLEMENT EACH STEP OF THE PLAN.
  • UPDATE THE PLAN AS YOU PROGRESS.
  • WORK HARD.
  • KEEP GOING TILL YOU GET THERE.

 For me, my passion is tennis and the hope of being an 80 year old competitive tennis player.  So with that passion, I continue to direct my plan towards staying healthy.  I started playing tennis when I was a kid.  I have the skills that will allow me to compete.  But the true test is staying healthy enough to be on the court at the age of 80.  In fleshing out my plan, I try to stay active, limber, deal with my aching back, legs, neck, etc. proactively, and continue to enjoy what tennis has given me my whole life — exercise, fresh air and wonderful friends.  I have a way to go to get to 80, but I can only believe that if I continue on my course of an active and healthy life, I should make it…

What is your passion?  Your personal passion….  What you want for your children, your family, the world.  That doesn’t count.   You… stop and identify what it is for YOU!!!  What is that “thing” that gets you up in the morning when you really would prefer to just hang out.
Please share….  Your passion and goal may inspire another who is struggling to find their own.
Diana Nyad finally realized her dream.  She did it with hard work, tenacity and tremendous sacrifice.  My biggest question for her is…. what’s next?
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 Brother of….

by Jane Kaufman

 

I love that righteous feeling of cranking the Beastie Boys in my car on the way to work. The lyrics are “brilliant”; a mix of pop culture, puns, and almost rhyming words that always make me laugh. Each time I listen to a song I catch a little more and realize just how clever those guys were. There voices are so distinct and I’m sure they are forever saddened by the passing of Adam Yauch at such a young age.
 
This has been a very weird summer.  I had a big birthday and that somehow forces a temperature gauge on where your life is and where you want it to go. Having the kids away at this time of reflection definitely skewed the landscape but now that they are back and starting school, I plan to look to them as my yardstick.
 
Jason has started 5th grade and will be turning 11 next month. He is on the Safety Patrol at school and is planning to run for Student Council President. He is also going to be a Parkland Sports Buddy for the first time this year. He will volunteer his time on Saturdays to pair up with a special needs kid, not his brother, to guide them in playing Flag Football. He had to be at least 10 to do this, so this is the first year he’s really been eligible to sign up. When I asked him if he wanted to be a buddy, he said “of course”. I’m very proud of that, he likes to be a helper so I’m confident he will embrace it well. I told him he needed to go early on Saturday for training. He said “training?, I’m like a buddy every day to Bryan”. Ha!!!

 

He has a great sense of confidence now as a result of camp and the relationships he formed there. Prior to camp departure, it seemed he really needed a break from Bryan and I think we were right about that. He needed to “spread his wings” a bit and develop some deeper friendships. One thing about Jason, he literally does not have one drop of self-consciousness about Bryan. Literally, none! A friend of his from camp that lives in NJ came down with his sister after camp to visit their grandfather. The grandfather became ill and the kids came and slept over night. The sister is Bryan’s age and Jason’s friend and bunk mate is his age. Bryan displayed his typical self, sometimes yelling, often impatient, and definitely perseverating. Bryan and the other kids ate dinner outside and he was clearly agitated. I do not know what the other kids thought, but Jason expressed nothing in terms of us removing Bryan from the situation or asking Bryan to quiet down. I was seriously impressed with this; I think I was more self-conscious on his behalf. He accepts his brother totally and completely; the true definition of unconditional love. The great part is when I talked to him about it he looked at me like I was nuts.

 

Bryan has started 7th grade. In true Bryan form, we went to open house last week. A woman was at a table with some PTA/SAC info and he walked up to her and said “Hi, Miss ____, it’s me Bryan, I’m back!”. He loves his environment at school and was literally thrilled to be going back. He woke up at 4am and was seriously ready to go, showered, ate breakfast, etc. by 6:15 and school doesn’t start until 9:30. He is tall and slim (as a result of camp) and although his nonstop perseveration (is that an oxymoron?) can be extremely frustrating, his eyes reveal a deeper understanding of what is going on around him. For this year the shift will be away from the basics and onto mature things. His OT contacted us to say we are going to finish up cursive writing practice and move on to more practical things; hygiene, cooking a meal in the microwave, making a sandwich, holding silverware better. For speech there will always be reading comprehension, inferences, speaking in complete sentences, and retelling a story. We focus on the improvements, not the results.

 

everythingisathing | August 23, 2013 | Tags: AutismcampMotherhoodpsychologysiblings | Categories: anxietyAutismchildrendisabilitiesfamilykidsloveparenthoodpsychologysiblingsspecial needsspeech therapysummer campsupportUncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p1Ax2u-w5

Remembering Summer

by Karen Meister

As everyone gets into school mode, the last bits of summer bliss are still fresh in our minds.  The children who attended sleep away camp are still fresh with stories of newly made friends, the excitement of Color War, and exhibit a little bit of the independence they achieved while away at camp.  The high schoolers that went on trips of excitement and expansion have stories, photos and are eager to catch up with their friends from home.

In either case, the shift back to home life and soon to be school life is a struggle for everyone.  The return of the daily routine is around the corner.  Get ready!!

So what can you do to help the entire family shift?

  1. Bedtime.  Since sleep is of utmost importance, you want to make sure your family is getting enough in preparation for the start of school.  But in reality, and I don’t care how strict of a parent you may be, it is tough to go from the looseness of summer to the controlled routine of the school year.  So, you have to gradually get into the swing of things.  Set the bedtime about 15 minutes earlier each night until you are back on “School Standard Time”.  But alas, don’t be hard on yourself or your kids.  Everyone will be tired on Monday morning.
  2. Start making the school schedule spreadsheet.  Every member of the family gets to participate.  The first part is time to arrive at school and time it ends.  And from there, you work backwards as you plug in the “musts” and the “wants”.  Click here to get a copy of a simple school prep calendar.
  3. Preparing the workspace for school studies.  Every school will typically provide some kind of office supplies store list of needs ie the completely necessary “red pencil”.  Purchase as much as you can in advance and get the kids in on the action.  Let them select the notebook of their dreams — a small expense for some independent expression.  Make sure this year’s backpack fits your child and has the storage needed for all of their supplies, but not too much so that “stuff” gets lost at the bottom.
  4. Set some smart goals for the year.  Help your children identify some goals as well as action plans that have the following characteristics.  They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound.  For example, if the goal is to Earn Better Grades and in evaluation, it appears as if homework was a problem, you may want to help your child with the following goal:
    • During the first marking period, I will complete my homework during the hours of 6 to 7 p.m. on school nights at my desk in my bedroom. After completing my homework, I will put my homework in a homework folder and put it in my backpack. At school the next day I will turn in my homework to my teacher. I will revise this goal after receiving my first marking period report card.
    • This stated goal meets all the criteria listed above and can be easily scheduled in your planner in #2.
  5. Get set the night before.  And make this a daily routine.  Clothes picked out, alarms set, homework in backpacks, lunches made, activity list reviewed, paperwork completed.  Not only will getting set the night before help in the morning rush, but it will also help for a better night sleep for everyone.

And mom and dad, the most peaceful time of the day is usually before the kids get up to get ready for the morning.  I don’t know about you, but I always got up well before the kids, do my stretches, prepare breakfast, MAKE THE COFFEE, and shake off the sleepy grumpiness so I can help my kids start the day with a happy start.  And I always ate breakfast with the kids.  The old — monkey see, monkey do!

Good luck with the prep and the first days back to school.  Please share your tips and ideas for getting ready for the first 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.

 

Seeing New Hampshire

by Karen Meister

As I do every year, I visit camps in different parts of the country.  I get to know the lakes, the mountains, the itty bitty hotels and motels along the itty bitty highways and I unplug — not by choice mind you.  Since this is a business trip, I really need to stay in touch with clients while on the road.  But, what is the value of a child unplugging for the summer and what are some of the policies you may find on different camp grounds?

New terminology:  with an ever-changing society that has become plugged in, the camps have been forced to adapt some of their policies when it comes to kids and electronics.  So let’s start the list:

 

1.  Cell phones –  Forget about it!  The camps do not want kids to bring cell phones and they know many devious parents send their child with two cell phones, one of which they gladly turn in to the camp office while holding on to their secret phone.  Granted, most camps have little or no cell service and don’t have wireless internet that is available to the kids, if anyone.  If your child is going to camp without you however, and you want them to have the ability to contact you while in transit, they can happily and proudly turn their cell phone into the camp office upon arrival and retrieve it, all charged up, when they return home after a great summer.

2.  Game players of all kinds – Whatever name they go by today, leave them at home.  Although some camps still do allow game players, most do not.  Highly recommend that you send your children with playing cards or one board game.  This is a time for unplugging and social skills development.  Encourage them to sit on the floor and play with someone else.  So if you have to send them with something, try cards, jacks, pick up sticks and the like.  Go old school!!

3.  Music systems – The latest in terminology is screen free.  So if a camp “does” allow private music systems, they are usually permitted in the cabins only for night time listening.  Something like an older version i-pod that has no screen is the way to go.  No movies, no videos…. are permitted.

4.  Readers Go for the old fashioned Kindle or a real live paper book.  Camps are in transition these days because they know that kids are reading on “readers”, and they certainly want to encourage reading during the summer.  And yet, the readers today are starting to become more like mini-computers which they will not permit.  So…. if you have a kindle, check and see if it is okay.  Otherwise, go to the book store and get paper!

5.  Computers - Leave them at home.  The heat, humidity, and bugs will destroy any computer.

 

So, if you are sending your child off to the woods, let them enjoy the woods and un-plug from society.  Give them a digital break.  It will be so worth while.  Let them hide from the outside world and bond with the child next to them rather than the old friends in cyber-space.  And of course, none of the above applies if you have sent your child to an academic program, enrichment program or specialty program that is at a boarding school or on a college campus.

For practice next year, why not un-plug for a week and see all of the wonderful things you discover?  OK.  Systems down and I’m back into the woods of New Hampshire!

 

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.

Visiting Day – Another Tale

by Karen Meister

Visiting Day…. the right of passage that has been all over the internet.  The Running…. The Hugging…. The Candy and Junk Food…. The Smiles and Happy Faces…..

And then, there is that one child, that one family, that is having a very different experience.  You have planned for 3 1/2 weeks for the moment and your child finally finds you and is hysterical crying.  OMG!!!!  What happened?  What’s going on?  They have been to this camp for 4 years, always happy and all of a sudden they are absolutely a blubbering mess of tears, complaints, angst, and more.  What is going on?

There are a couple of things for you to do and the first is of utmost importance:  MAKE NO ASSUMPTIONS!

Take a look at the situation in the following order:

1.  Health  – Identify if your child is physically ill, or coming down with something.

2.  Overwhelmed  – Is your child overwhelmed by the build up of your arrival?  Is he or she finally able to release all of this pent up emotion and finally get it out of their system?

3.  BFF Issue  – Let’s just call this the temporary “he/she is picking on me” syndrome.  There may have been a spat that occurred right before you got to camp, or a few days prior.  The feelings may still be lingering, unresolved, and “Mom/Dad” is there to save the day.

4.  Counselor Issue  – This one is something to have your antennae up for.  If your child indicates there is an issue with the counselor, again, don’t make any assumptions but give your child a safe space to talk freely about what is going on.  If  there are ruffled feathers due to a disciplinary issue, this can be resolved easily.  If there is something deeper as to abuse or inappropriate touching etc., be sure to get the Camp Director involved right away.  But beware of putting words into your child’s mouth.  Allow them the comfort to just talk and share their experience.  Remember, the counselors are young adults at the start of their lives as well.  An inappropriate accusation can destroy their lives as well as your child’s.  If there is something inappropriate occurring, make sure you handle it with care and class.  We will focus on this in a separate article.

 

5.  Outgrown the camp  – At the start, I mentioned that you are returning for the 4th year — as an example — and this is the first year that the tears are flowing.  And often times, this can happen when your child is around 12 or 13 years old.  They have attended the same camp, with the same kids, and enjoyed every moment of camp in the past.  But alas, young teenage-hood has struck.

Children develop differently at different times in different ways. I remember at 12 years old, I looked like I was the littlest one on the ball field, on the tennis courts, anywhere relative to my peers who had already gone through a growth spurt.  Those who know me, know that I never quite had that growth spurt, but during those middle school years, kids grow physically and emotionally at very different rates.  So what kind of changes occur and how does it impact your child’s summer experience?

  • Some children develop physically and are stronger and better athletes — and therefore, need a different setting ie a specialty camp
  • Some children begin to understand their preferences ie non-athletic and more intellectual desires, more specialized in their desires, and need a change towards a boarding school program or age appropriate travel program
  • The rah-rah of the past several years is no longer their desires and they may need a more sedate setting
  • Just want a new experience
Bottom line is there is nothing wrong with the camp and nothing wrong with your child.  It is just time to move on.  The benefits of the existing experience have been achieved and there are more worlds to conquer in the future.  Some children are destined to go to the same camp and be with the same kids year after year and never want to leave.  Some children are destined to got to several camps, several experiences, several different programs.  The beauty is that each child and each family has many options.
I attended two different traditional camps, tennis specialty camp, travel program and an international boarding school program.  Each one was excellent, exciting, and eye opening.  My sister attended the same camp for seven years.  They were both correct experiences for us.  I have clients who have been all over the map with choices for their children.
So what to do with your crying child at visiting day?  Hug them, love them, and send them back to camp (assuming it is safe and you have verified that).  Let them know that they can have a wonderful time for the next few weeks and that you will talk about options in the future.  But today, enjoy all the donuts, junk food, presents, shows and more.
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.

 

July 4th Shout Out

by Karen Meister

There are specific dates that occur each year where family, friends and events take place —  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Rosh Hashanah….  And then there is July 4th.  If we’re lucky, it will land close enough to a weekend like this year when we get a 4-day holiday.  But each year, I can mark the change of life and new stage of life in which I stand.

As a kid, we would be at sleep away camp for July 4th.  The day would start with a color competition, three teams — red, white, and blue — and we competed in all the real games as well as the silly ones, sang songs and cheered loudly for our color.  We would go for the traditional barbecue, come together as a united camp and head out to the hill where the camp worked very hard to present the greatest fireworks display ever seen.  We would lay on the hill, eyes to the sky, next to our very best summer friends, and screaming… “Oooo… Aaaaa…. Eeeee….OHohohoh!” with the presentation of each new bang and boom.  I can still smell and feel the wet grass on which we were lying.  I can see the sky turn smoky gray when the fireworks were over, and we were sent back to our cabins… tired and satisfied that the day was terrific.  The camp directors certainly tried to impart the purpose of our celebration, and the fact that we are a free and independent country, but it was certainly lost on our sheer happiness to be at camp.

Turns out, even as a young adult, I was still at camp during July 4th as a camp counselor.

But then, I got to mark the years by the July 4th experiences and the changing of the family size.  Upon marriage, there were gatherings on boats, at friends’ houses and certainly the hunt for the most unusual fireworks in the area.  Child number one brought a slight fear of the noise and booms of fireworks.  Protecting the sensitivities of that first born is something many can understand.  Child number one — ah, what do you do with them??  One year later, there are two kids and year three, yet another.  So July 4th celebrations for a few years were in protective mode for sure.

But then the boys were ready to participate in the recognition of our country’s independence.  Working hard to let them know that it was more than just a fireworks and barbecue celebration, there was a bit of patriotism that was practiced the week before the holiday.  Barbecue with the same families, the local country club’s golf course for fireworks, a dance with my friend as John Phillip Sousa’s march came on the sound system, the kids’ yelling “Oh Mom!” and the rush to the parking lot to get home.  Carrying the sleepy sweaty bodies into their beds and knowing that the night was just perfect.

And then, their turn to go to camp and year after year, have the same oohs and aaahs with their friends while I got to celebrate in new ways each year.  I guess I began to go on “teen tours” during the summers….  Wimbledon, Vienna, Tanglewood, Nantucket, NYC, and every year I remember two things….

A shout out to my dancing partner, Hillary (pictured above), husband, Ken, and her now 4 MEN ….  and how proud I am to be a free citizen of the United States of America.

 

 

Refresh Refresh

by Karen Meister

All of a sudden, you have some free time.  The endless hours of childcare don’t exist right now because the kids have left for sleepaway camp.  You have a list of projects you are thinking about tackling while they are gone.  But, you just can’t seem to step away from the computer.  Of course, the camps post endless pictures of the kids at play and you MUST make sure that you see the pictures “hot off the presses” — so to speak.  And if you don’t see your child each day, in some new activity with a smile on their face, you have to call the camp and ask if he/she is alive, happy, hurt, sad, or who knows what.

Imagine how the kids feel.  During the summer, they are supposedly trying to get away from anything electronic.  Their cell phones have been extricated, they no longer get email, they have to write letters using paper and pencil (they have forgotten how to use them), and some photographer is constantly in their face to appease mom in front of the computer at home.  UGH!!!

I most certainly was guilty of the same, but was able to eventually pry myself away from the computer and found so many great things to do with that wonderful extra time during the summer.   So what to do with that extra time??

I am so curious to find out what activities are on your list.  Please participate in our survey and we’ll let you know what the results say.  Click here to take the survey.

So just remember, while your kids are ducking the photographer because it makes it harder to sink that basket, or hit an awesome serve, or make the napkin holder for you, or practice for the play during visiting day, practice what you are preaching to the kids.

Go live…  Unplug… Strive for independence…. Learn new things…. Make new friends….  Enjoy!!

 

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.

 

Fluffy pink slippers

by Karen Meister

I am on a camp trip, not to be confused with a “camping” trip.  I am not a tent person and yet, I most certainly respect those who love it.  But I do love sleep away camp and always have.  For the past ten years now, there is a wonderful summer ritual that I get to experience.  I work like crazy getting all of my families ready for a summer of excitement, purpose, independence and fun with finding just the right summer experience for their children.  Father’s Day arrives and immediately after, I hit the road.

My goal is to visit camps, get to know the reality of the camps facilities, staff and activities, and identify which children belong at which camps.  I back away from my computer and cyber-space, and get to walk and hike through the mountains and fresh air of camp.

I DO LOVE MY JOB!

But alas, I am leaving my family behind for the summer.  And as my kids said to me this year, “Mom, don’t worry.  You will get over your homesickness, you can call us a few times during the summer, and we know you’ll be happy.”  I think they have been eavesdropping on my calls with all of my clients!!

So, I pack my bag, with all of my favorite cozy things, allowing me to have a little bit of home and comfort while I’m away.  I have my favorite sweats, my fuzzy slippers, my own pillow and now, my pictures on my phone and computer.  When I enter a strange hotel room, I need to make it my space so that it feels like my little home away from home.  And what is really interesting and certainly validates what I do for a living, I book hotels in sleepy little camp towns like Clinton, SC and trust me, the picture of the hotel is very very VERY different than what I am staying in.  And that is why I visit the camps so that you have eyes on the ground that can distinguish between beautiful photoshopped photos vs reality.

Just as you prepare to send your own children away from home, know that they are having the same mixed emotions that I am experiencing.  The excitement of returning to the camp world, the thrill of cooler weather and activity away from book work, and yet…. leaving the comforts of home.

So, let me suggest that you send your kids with their faves from home.  A favorite pillow, special slippers, a cozy bathrobe, pictures to put on their cabin wall, and of course, a “printed” picture of the family.  No electronics at camp.

Happy to share thoughts from the road.  Send me your questions about camp, packing, prepping, research for the future, homesickness, happy /disturbing letters from camp and more.  And if the teens are home and driving you crazy, I can always find a last minute spot.

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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.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

This is not a newsflash. You need to own it, your own bad behavior or at least my own bad behavior. There is really no good excuse for being short tempered with your kids. They don’t deserve it and no amount of telling them you are sorry or that you are stressed will work. Kids, like people, do not respond to what you say, they respond to what you do. I feel like a perpetual Nike ad, Just Do It!!! The tricky part really is how this applies to Bryan. For Jason, if I am stressed or angry or anxiety filled he will ask me, “Mom, what’s wrong?, why are you sad or why are you mad?”Sometimes the topics are too mature for him, but if I give him a general idea of what is happening, he will give me a hug or just be a little more sensitive. I can say to him, “hey J, I need a little more cooperation and patience from you right now” and he gets it and tries to comply. Bryan just says things like “you’re frustrated with me” or “everything will be ok”. When I hear Bryan say “everything will be ok” I want to barf. I know he is self-soothing and it means that the stress level has tipped the scales. You can tell your kids do as I say not as I do, but they will always do what you do, so behaving like a stressed out lunatic is some seriously poor modeling.

Spending time with the kids is huge. And I don’t mean existing in the same house. When I get home I hear Jason wanting me to do something with him and Bryan wanting me to do something else. It is always a struggle to find time to give each of them attention in the way they want it; but the message is key, Mommy, give me time, love, play with me!! The lesson, which for some reason I need to keep re-learning(is that a word?) is that you need to do something with each of them, even if it is only 15 minutes, doing what they want to do. Sounds so simple, but at times execution or taking actionafter a long day of work and a pile of stress is the toughest thing of all. Time to dig deep and remember that all of this behavior that you are exhibiting whether on purpose or not is all being tracked by these kids as if it were an app on your phone. The data is in storage and can be retrieved at any time.

This weekend they are leaving for sleepaway camp. I am always annoyed by parents that complain about packing a kids trunk. What can be better than putting your kids precious stuff in a big bag that will enable them to have an amazing summer? I love ordering labels, I love labeling things with their name and I love the idea that when they open their bags they will know that Mommy and Daddy made sure they have what they need. I have written my first letters to them today. I like them to have mail when they arrive. I am careful not to say I miss you and I love you too much, I don’t want to stir up homesickness. I will write again tomorrow. I tell them both that I will write every day and I always do. I guess that’s the point, actions speak louder than words…

 

everythingisathing | June 18, 2013 at 9:50 pm | Tags: Autismcampfamilylovepsychologyspecial needs | Categories: anxietyAutismchildrenparentingpsychologyspecial needsspeech therapy,summer campUncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p1Ax2u-vX

 

Lessons from my dad

I have been on a Mad Men marathon.  I am watching fathers from the 1950′s… parent and work and drink and cheat and OMG!!!  This was NOT my father…..

Many of you know my Dad, or know of my Dad.  The orthodontist of Miami in the 60′s – 90′s, he shared his Mal-isms with everyone.  He taught us to:  
  1. wake up in the morning and be thankful for another day,
  2. live life like a freshman – curious, wide-eyed, enthusiastic
  3. practice with excellence
  4. be independent of pettiness – is it don’t sweat the small stuff and/or don’t even pay attention to it
  5. stay stimulated – you are never finished learning, exploring, doing, living
  6. prepare your kids to fly – this was a big one for me as a mother of three boys
  7. enjoy competition as a participant and as a spectator
  8. travel
  9. laugh – I never ever ever have a problem with that
  10. strive for financial independence

As a young girl, I used to go into my Dad’s study in our house.  He would sit on his brown chair reading very often.  When I had a problem that clearly needed attention, I would go in, sit on the ottoman, and spill my guts with today’s issue — boy trouble, girl trouble, teacher trouble, or whatever.  He would sit and listen without saying a thing.  It was so great.  No judgement, no lectures.  Just a pair of great ears and an occasional “I see”.  Many years later, when parenting my own children and finding it very difficult to sit by and listen, I asked for his wisdom and insight on how to be as good as he was.  And the truth came out….

He was still reading his book while I was talking.  He knew, and had confidence in me, that I would figure it out for myself.  And I did.  But somehow, if I ever asked him a question, he had heard enough to either bounce back with an appropriate question or actually provide an answer.  But he gave me the space.

When my Dad retired from orthodontics, he had always dreamed of the country club life playing tennis daily, doing some interesting things with his time and playing more tennis.  His body unfortunately, did not cooperate.  Too much tennis was just not in the cards.  So to occupy his time, he went to law school.  My Dad, with all the young students, graduated at the top of the class and passed the bar exam at 65.  From there, he was asked to start the Orthodontist College at Nova University.  After a decade of success, and in his early 80′s, he is still teaching at Nova, he uses his law degree to help in dental malpractice cases, and change law when it comes to the dental field.

I am in awe of my father.  But most incredible to me, was when he retired as the Chairman of the Orthodontist College, a decade of students returned to Ft. Lauderdale to honor him.  And each one of them shared their thoughts about my Dad.  And each one of them learned much more from him than orthodontics.  They were all quoting “Mal-isms”.  As if they had grown up in my house, they had drunk the same Kool-Aid.

My Dad is most certainly my hero.  And I work very hard to live up to his path to success.  Every morning, I am so thankful to wake up to the sun and say “It is so great to be alive!  Let’s go enjoy life today!!”

Please share your stories about your Dad and keep reading our articles at LifeMeisters.  We have so much to share.

Karen Meister   is the Founder of the LifeMeisters.   She also works, 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.  

THE FAMILY WAY – 4 Must Dos

Join us on June 15th for a Family Travel Event:  Click here for details

The word, OXYMORON is defined by Merriam-Webster as a combination of contradictory or incongruous words ; or something (as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements. That pretty much sums up some people’s reaction to the idea of a “Family Vacation”.

In 1983, in the movie, “National Lampoon’s Vacation”, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) along with his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and children, Rusty and Audrey, embark on a trip in response to Clark’s desire to bond with his family. The hilarity that ensues demonstrates the fun (and cinematic disasters) that can happen on a family trip.

Travel can educate, stimulate, encourage better understanding between cultures but most importantly, travel creates life long memories. Family lore is created by these memories. Trust me, no one looks back at pictures of themselves sitting at their desks eating their lunch. But those images of the kids attempting skiing for the first time or swimming with dolphins or zip lining through the jungle will always put smiles on your face. With careful planning, you can avoid some of the major pitfalls of the family vacation and savor the memories of time well spent together. In our family, the image of a beetle can send all of us into fits of laughter remembering the lone bug slowly walking across an ancient mosaic floor at Beit Shein, Israel. Unknowingly, our guide Zvika was so engrossed in describing the earthquake that destroyed the city that he did not see the lovely bug making its way across the tile. To the horror of my children, he stepped right on the bug, just at the peak of his description of the death of thousands. That crunch sent them into first shock and then laughter. The bug perished along with the rest of history. So here are a few of my recommendations to avoid a Griswold Family Vacation.

Plan Ahead : The days of throwing clothes into a backpack and heading off to Europe on a college railpass are long gone for most of us. Today, you can easily plan exactly how you want to travel, how you will get there, when you want to arrive, where you want to stay and what amenities you need to ensure that your level of comfort, fun and experience is waiting for you. You do not want to find out that you have only one day in a port city and all the museums you wanted to see are closed for the day. Do your homework.

Vacation Menu: I believe each person on the trip deserves to have a voice and the best way to do that is draw up a list of options in each location that each one can choose as their favorite thing. It does not matter how old each person is; there is something for everyone. It could be a special exhibit at a museum in the city you are going to or a favorite food. Make sure everyone has a voice.

Destination Known: We travel to explore new worlds but it pays to know what highlights you should not miss, as well as the best time to visit them. But don’t discount the road less traveled. Check on line for the location’s local papers where you might find a particular concert coming through during your visit. If you are a foodie, maybe there is a street where the locals eat that might appeal to your tastes.

Value: To see the Vatican, especially during the summer months, requires a great deal of fortitude and stamina. Get on line and wind your way through the miles of 360 degrees of art and religious history. Great memories, right? Well to some people, the value of travel is having an intimate experience, knowledgeable trip, exceptional service and special access to amenities and experiences.

I am going to tout my own horn for a moment about the use of a Travel Advisor. In life, we have Financial Advisors for planning our road to the future. We had Guidance Counselors in High School and College. Many of us have had mentors within our professional lives. A professional Travel Advisor will add tremendous value to your journey. The connections that a Travel Advisors possesses will save you time, save you money and will help gain you access to doors seldom opened. Whether it is ensuring that your dream cabin on the sailing isn’t located under the pool deck so that the screeching of deck chairs being moved at 6:00am disturbs your morning slumber. Or the room of your hotel faces the view of the Eiffel Tower, not the brick wall of the neighboring building. They know which hotel has true ski in/ski out locations with the ski concierge to help your family get on and off the slopes in moments rather than juggling equipment to the crowded parking lot. A great Travel Advisor, will do just that; advise you on the best rate available, ensure that the hotel knows what pillows you want or arrange that dinner you have dreamed about at sunset on a deserted beach or possibly the safety net for you when things go awry. The average person has a mere 2 weeks of vacation a year. Your time is valuable and a professional knows that and will help maximize your time. A Travel Advisor is a dream master, or dream-meister, taking a trip from ordinary to extraordinary. After all, you and your family do deserve it.

Join us on June 15th for a Family Travel Event:  Click here for details

Phyllis Samowitz is a Virtuoso Travel Advisor with Post Haste Travel in Hollywood Florida. Her goal is to turn travel planning details into memories that will last a lifetime. She is passionate about helping clients create extraordinary experiences, whether it be one night or a month’s long journey; a single traveler, family or large group. Her philosophy is based on the quote “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

School’s Out – What Will You Do?

by Karen Meister

So the summer is here, the storms have arrived and kids of all ages are so relieved to change their routines.  Everyone, if possible, is looking forward to a break from making lunches, a little relief from the early morning rush and the constant reminder to do your homework.

Ahhhh….. the start of summer vacation.  But alas, there are many types of  households and many types of families.  And there is no perfect summer for all families.  A few questions, a few answers and would love to hear your thoughts on what your right 3 month summer period looks like.  Let’s examine the steps.

1.  What are your basic needs?  

  • what are your child care needs?  how old are the kids?  do you work outside of the home?
  • do you have travel plans?  with children?  without children?
  • how much money can you spare for camps?  activities?  babysitters?
  • if you could have anything you could dream up, what would it be?

2.  Now think of the family and their needs?

  • how old are the kids?  what would be in their best interest for strong growth and development? how much down time should they be allowed?
  • what part of the summer is devoted to their needs vs the needs of spouse/significant other?
  • what do the kids WANT to do?

3.  Make a list of possible activities.

  • There are many ways to fill in the calendar.  Three months is a long time and many activities can be done within that period of time.   Consider:  family vacation, summer camp, personal improvement activities — learning a musical instrument, practicing a sport, playing on a team
  • Acquire dates, activities, costs and make your lists
4.  Fill in the calendar.
  • Identify the selected “set in stone” dates ie family vacation, summer camp, class time, etc.
  • Build in free days that identify who in the family is the director
  • Build in days where the kids must come up with their individual plans ahead of time for approval
  • Build in days where the kids can just be “last minute”, go with the flow
5.  Establish a flexible routine.
  • Summer certainly can be a time of flexibility and a more laid back atmosphere.  Enjoy!
  • But too much flexibility will result in a waste of time, cranky little ones, and lethargic teens
  • Maintain bedtime rituals, daily chores, and family dinners
  • Select special themes ie Field Trip days.  My favorite was “messy food night” which was actually left overs that the kids organized and made their own dinners.
6.  Chores and community service.
  • Great time to learn how to do laundry (pays off when they go to college), vacuuming, mopping and more.  Music must be a part of chores time.
  • Engage the kids in a community service project during the summer.  Whether it be writing to soldiers overseas or collecting shoes or even shoe laces for kids in need, think about it, develop the plan and implement during this time.
  • You can also link responsibilities to rewards such as earning coupons for completion of tasks such as a week’s worth of successful bed making earns a coupon for a day off…
7.  Brain stimulation
  • First, identify if there are needs that must be addressed during the summer.  This may require tutors or summer school.
  • If there is no issue, but just a need to continue reading and math skills, be creative.  With little ones, you can go to the library and check out books that start with the letter A, and each week return the books and go to the next letter.  With older ones, you can have your own book club all reading the same book with goals to either see the movie when done or have a fun discussion about it.
  • Cooking is great for math skills, grocery shopping and money counting.  Learning can occur without a text book and be more memorable by utilizing all the senses to learn.
8.  Be sure to do what is right for your family and your children
  • Let go of guilt.  If going to camp and hiring baby sitters are what you need to do to survive because you are working full time, then that is what is right for your family.
  • If you are a stay at home mom, you love being with your kids, and cannot afford to let them go away to camp, match up with other stay at home moms so you can let your kids go for a bit and gain independence.
  • Don’t feel pressure from the neighbors, friends and other kids.  What is right for others is not necessarily right for your family.  Just make sure you don’t fall into the trap of making choices based on what the neighbors child says.
  • Just enjoy!!  Summer is fun!!
9.  Call on an Expert to help you design your summer.  It can help!
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.

Donate your hair

Last week a young man walked in the door with beautiful, thick salt and pepper colored wavy hair. It was the kind of hair most women would spend thousands of dollars to wear. When I found out that he was going to lop off ten inches I quickly stopped what I was doing and pleaded for him to donate his hair to charity.  He didn’t know that he could donate his hair because he is a man. Male or female, young or old, hair in good condition can be cut and donated.  And those with alopecia and/or the side effects of chemotherapy are ecstatic.

Lately there has been some bad press concerning a company that has been handling hair for wigs and pieces for years; Locks of Love. This organization started by taking donated hair and making natural looking wigs for people suffering from hair loss. The brouhaha is that the company is now charging families a percentage of the cost of the wig depending on their financial status. I can’t tell you how many Bat Mitzvah parties have come through these doors, in the past fifteen years that I have been blessed to work here in Aventura, to donate their hair for Locks of Love.  One time, we watched a room full of twelve-year old girls whacking off ten inches of their hair in an act of mass mitzvah.

So now just in time for summer and your girls are getting ready for summer camp, they probably need a haircut. What better time than now to get those long tresses shorn and do some good for those in need.

Another company that accepts your hair for donation is Zichron Menachem in Israel. Their worldwide campaign for hair donations is awe-inspiring. Getting it’s name from their son who passed away from leukemia at fifteen, the family agreed to help encourage young people to fight the battle with cancer with a good and positive outlook. I love the fact that they are looking for kids to help other kids that are less fortunate.

Pantene, the hair-care company that has popularized the shelves of drug stores and grocery stores, also has a program where you can send your ponytail and have it turned into a beautiful wig for a woman that has lost her hair to chemotherapy.

Here are some of the guidelines for donating your hair. All three have almost the same qualifications for offerings. Hair must be clean and dried. A minimum of ten inches is required and must be in a ponytail or braid. Place the braid in a clean plastic zip lock style bag, then in a manila envelope. Also check the company’s web site for their acceptance of tinted and chemically treated hair as well as grey hair. (Usually 5% is the maximum amount of grey)

You and your girls will feel good about helping others.  And don’t forget the boys such as your college age son who has been away for a year and hasn’t cut his hair.

 

Contributed by Scott Alan Hair Studios,  an Aveda concept salon in Aventura, Florida, that is passionate about service, our craft and committed to our guests and the environment.

Mass-aaaaaa-ge!

by Karen Meister

The close of school is just a few days away.  Everyone is feeling the pressure.  Finals, ceremonies, duffle bag packing but the  most stressful for most is indecision….

Indecision as to what is going to happen when June 6th occurs and the school year is over.  OMG!!

I have spoken with every kind of mom and dad in the past few weeks.

 

  1. Early Planner - This is the parent that believes they must plan next  summer now.  OK.  I’m ready for you.
  2. Late Planner -  Needless to say, the exact opposite.  The summer season is days away and therefore, it must be time to plan.  I am here for you.  I know which programs still have space and last minute placement is available.  Just be flexible.
  3. Indecisive - This is usually the parent of teens.  I think “insert your T$#@%EENSname” should do this, he/she wants to do that, and now we have to make a decision and can’t.  So my suggestion….
    • T$#@%EEN…. you get to choose.  Program A, Program B or Monday – Friday 9-5 job.  Find it.
  4. Disorganized - I signed up early, can’t find the paperwork, duffle bags aren’t ready, labels aren’t on the clothes and I can’t get a doctor’s appointment to get the health forms in.  Can you help?  Sorry.  This one is on you….
  5. Frantic - I signed up early, my child is going to three weeks of a program.  Was I crazy?  The summer is 12 weeks long.  What else are they going to do?  Help.  And of course, I can.  Camp Experts & Teen Summers, especially in South Florida, gets all kind of special programs that fill in the empty weeks.

So as I soak up all of your stress, and believe me, that is my job — happily — I find my shoulders have elevated somewhere up around my ears.  And today, I took off and went to my local Massage Envy and said — “take it away”!  Rub out the crunchiness in my shoulders and back.  Give me the comfort to sit in my office and talk to all my cyber-friends to help them with the summer.

I literally fell asleep the first half hour.   The second half hour was grand but camp plans started to creep back in.  When I went to check out, much more relaxed and relieved, they asked my name and I said… Karen Meister.  The woman standing next to me said,  ”Oh… the Camp Expert.  I still don’t know what my kids are doing.  Can you help me?”

And my answer was, yes!

 

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.

 

Are They Listening?

by Karen Meister

Graduation is around the corner.  Awards ceremonies are near.  Summer camp duffels need to be ordered and arranged.  This is such a busy time of the year.  So exciting, so frustrating, so overwhelming….  So how, as a parent, do you deal with it all?  And then on top of it, how are your kids dealing with their own anxieties, frustrations, excitement, and your PUSHING!!!!

The little guys, those in elementary school, although sometimes challenging, can be directed.  You hear them, you know what you believe is best for them, you guide them lovingly and sternly, and hopefully they do what you say and wish for them.  The push back may come because they can see a crack in your armature.  They know your weaknesses and given the opportunity, will climb into that little crack and do everything they can to make it bigger and more spacious for their NEEDS!  Caulk that crack (I’m doing a bit of remodeling right now so pardon the analogy!)  In elementary school, you get to be the dictator.  Going to sleep away camp?  Kids… here is your list, we are going to pack on Saturday, be prepared and when we are done…. PARTY!!  Pool, cake, ice cream — yes, most certainly bribe them — and happy dance.  We accomplished this task together and let’s applaud ourselves.

 

The middle schoolers are tough.  Still able to direct them (they have no wheels) but the sullen, blue, don’t bother me attitude takes over your once, sweet delish little child.  With this age, sometimes reverse psychology works wonders.  When it comes to summer plans, if they have never gone away before, fear is really the biggest factor in the push back by the tween.  Their wish is “I don’t need you to protect me or tell me what to do, Mom/Dad”.  Their insides are saying “I can’t leave.  I have no idea what it will be like.  It will probably stink.  I will be miserable.  No one will like me……”  They verbalize “Don’t make me do that stupid thing.  It “s@#$%ks”!”  How to handle?  Give them two to three options from which they get to choose.  And as you know or don’t know, going away is the perfect thing for them to do at this age.  They learn independence, they grow, and they know that they can conquer those inner fears (and so can you).

So you let the middle schooler know, you will be going away to a summer program for a minimum of (fill in the number of days) OR you will be participating in a program for…..  You however, will have ultimate decision making in which one you choose.  However, you must choose one.  Here you go….  Review them, ask questions, we can choose together.  But on May 21st (or of course, whatever date you choose and it should have been March 21st), a decision will be made.  OK.  Bye….

And then leave that sullen, confused middle schooler alone to digest what you just presented.  There may be excitement, anger, thrills, who knows.  But the directive has been presented, and yet, he/she has involvement in the decision making. Big step from the little guys.

And then there are the teens.  High schoolers can be off the charts amazing and want to do things that you could never dream to do, could never afford to do, or want to do yourselves.  Right??  But it is there time.  And yet others, are still stuck in the middle school sullen mode.  They want to sleep, hang out with their friends, leave me alone, I work so hard all year, why are you making me do something during my vacation, did I catch them all?  There are so many more.  Bottom line is an idle teen is dangerous.  My suggestion is again with involvement in choosing.  So again, on May 21st (or your date of choice) we will decide your summer plans.  You will either have a job, have a class, or go on a program of some sort.  Six weeks of your twelve week summer vacation must be planned on May 21st.  We will then discuss the remaining six weeks of your time.  You will have some hang around time, we will be taking a family vacation and you will be doing some work around the house.  Let’s get planning!

For those who want to do nothing, this is a tremendous chore. It means they may have to make decisions without knowing what their friends are doing.  And of course, that is an exercise in development of independence.  They may have no clue what they want to do, and anything you may have to say is met with immediate rejection.  And here is the trick.  KEEP TALKING!  KEEP SUGGESTING!

They are listening.  They hear what will make you happy.  Just don’t jam it down their throats or give them too much information at once.  Give them three options.  Give them a mandate to select one.  Give them a date.  And if they do not choose or implement their choice by the given date, you get to choose.  There will be some fireworks, no doubt.  But they will grow, learn, plan and develop.

My kids had the pleasure of going through all of this with me.  I was tough but not too tough.  Listened but told.  Hugged and scolded.  And now in their 20′s, they are implementing, on their own, some of the lessons taught so many years back.  They were always listening.  It is now their time to act.  Just keep on talking and guiding.  That is being a parent….

Needless to say, if you still need help with the summer and help being a director to your teens, just holler.  I have had the experience and can talk to the teens with you.

 

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.

Taking control – remembering a teacher

We have all had teachers, counselors, coaches, friends, loved ones that have made an impact on our lives.  Recently I read of the passing of my 5th grade teacher, Betty Kravitz.  I was immediately brought back to that time of my life, seeing my friends sitting next to me in the classroom, and hearing the sharp voice of one of the strictest teachers I had ever had.  And I say this in a positive way.  Mrs. Kravitz knew how to manage a class.  We learned, we were controlled and we respected her.  And, unlike today, we were also hugged by our teacher.

So it makes me wonder, what has happened in the classrooms today?  Some teachers are successful controlling classes, whereas others cannot.  There is most certainly a difference in the ability of each individual teacher based on strength, experience, mentoring and more.  But is there truly a difference in the student?  Are our children today more defiant, more disrespectful?  Is it coming from the home?  Peer pressure?  Chemicals in the food?  What is going on?

I remember when I went for training with the American Camping Association, the biggest lesson they provided was “you must start out tough in order to maintain control”.   And that really has rung true when it came to managing my own collection of boys as they were growing up.  There were rules and structure on how to behave, how to sit, interact with friends and family.  And of course, there were consequences.  Not always easy, not always fun.  And as with Mrs. Kravitz, not always liked.  Even though it hurt to not be adored by my kids all the time, I knew it was the right thing to do as a parent.  But there was most certainly a goal:  to create civil and productive members of society.

My kids have heard this story a million times and I really hope they will remember it when they raise their own children.  They were a little less than two and three years old (the youngest not yet born and I was pregnant).  It was time to go play in the balls, they could run around without me chasing them, and my friends were bringing their kids as well.  I was going to have some much needed social time, a physical relief, and the day was as much for me as it was for the kids.  Prior to going, I told them….  ”we are here to play in the balls. No tokens for games.  If you ask me for tokens, I will tell you NO one time.  If you ask me again, we are going to leave.”

They were babies, but they had to know that I was the boss.  So of course, about 1 hour later, I said goodbye to my friends and my temporary peace and carried two babies under my arms, kicking and screaming, and swearing they wouldn’t ask me again.  We left and as promised, there were no more chances.

Had I given them a second chance, I would have been teaching them that my word was not true.  They would have learned that if someone else told them what to do, they could challenge it.  I didn’t always do it right, but I was conscious about my need to be consistent.  Have we been a decade or two of parents who have created the types of kids that have entered today’s classrooms?  Have we also been the same that has created teachers that give second and third chances, again teaching that their word doesn’t mean anything?

Can we swing the pendulum…. one child/family/school at a time?  Are you in??

 

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.

Summer of Freedom and Wonder

by Karen Meister

The history of summer camps reflects the desire of parents to get their children outside of the urban areas during the summer….  to refresh, reflect, and often times, to get them out of harms way.  In these days of ongoing anguish over the occurrences in Boston, our natural inclination is to cling to our kids tightly.  And yet, as history has shown, there comes a time when letting go provides the greatest healing for our children.

I found this article written by Chaim Potok:

“During the first two decades of my life, the thirties and forties, poliomyelitis was a frightful scourge made all the more horrifying in that most of the afflicted were children. Summertime the disease would run rampant through urban populations, striking randomly, at times paralyzing the legs and the respiratory system of its victims. Parents sought desperately to send their sons and daughters out of cities–to summer camp.

Those polio epidemics, as we called them, would begin with the coming of late spring and hang over us like shrouds all through the summer months, and fade only with the end of the summer camp season and the first cold weather of autumn. A train or bus would carry us away from that invisible killer and the streets it menaced, and only when we were out of the city across the bridge or through the tunnel would I feel myself begin to shed the miasma of dread under which we lived. Each summer a dreamlike world presented itself to my innocent eyes: vast green fields and rolling hills and dense stands of trees and the sky an astonishing blue, open, enormous. My family–left behind. My street and neighborhood and city-vanished. The threat of paralysis or death–gone; for the time being, blessedly gone.

And so, as I grew up, chief among the uses of summer camp was the saving of young lives.

The first night in a summer camp: excitement, anxiety, apprehension, disquiet. Strangers in bunk beds. Cold clear night air. Cicadas and frogs: the mysterious pulsing of the earth. Then, finally, the fall into deep sleep. And awake early to the birds and the dawn. Ground mist on the grass and in the woods. Silent ghostly trees. A lowing cow somewhere in the distance. Blades of grass jeweled with crystalline beads of dew glistening in the first rays of the sun. A city child gazing through a cabin window on his first wondrous morning in a summer camp.”

In today’s world, we are saving our children in so many ways by letting go and allowing them to breathe the fresh air, disconnect from the world that bombards them with information 24/7.  Allowing our children to just be children is the greatest gift we can give them.  Holding on tightly, and passing our insecurities to them is not helping them cope.  By letting go, we are teaching them to move on, to live, to enjoy life.  It is critical to select wisely and certainly do your homework and make sure that you are always sending your children to a safe, secure, and well run program.  But do not hold on due to fear…. Let go and invest in their future health, happiness, independence and success.

Let them soar!!!

 

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.

 

 

AMUSE-MENT PARKS AND MORE

There is travel for cultural experiences: immersing oneself in historical and artistic perspectives. There are the nature aficionados:exploring the majesty of Mother Nature’s creations, hiking trails and swinging through rain forests. For those sports minded individuals: skiing, tennis or horseback riding.

Travel sometimes enables us to reunite with family or friends. But travel for real fun, real amusement can mean just one thing: the draw towards high-diving, monster screaming experiences. It is summer time, time to join in the throngs of tourists, queue up and prepare to be entertained.

Here are the newest additions at the amusement parks for Spring and Summer 2013:

 

WALT DISNEY WORLD  (Orlando):

The largest expansion to an existing park at WDW has been revealed in the New Fantasyland area. Starting in The Enchanted Forest, a new musical ride, Under The Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid has opened, along with a Meet and Greet in Ariel’s Grotto. New eateries include Gaston’s Tavern and Be My Guest Restaurant. The Be My Guest Restaurant is the first dining venue in the Magic Kingdom that has alcoholic beverages. But more than that, it brings a high level of sophistication to the food preparation and presentation. Three dining rooms capture the magic of the story of Beauty and the Beast with all of the Disney detail filling the ballrooms and hallways. This is an opportunity to meet the characters from the beloved story and get a break from the frenzy of the rides.

The next area which has been added is the Storybook Circus. Incorporating Americana’s love of the circus, the centerpiece of this area is two (hooray!) Dumbo rides with an enclosed, interactive waiting area including beepers that will signal you when it is your time to ride. The Barnstormer, mini-roller coaster, splash stations and Meet and Greets completes this area.

Upcoming soon, Princess Fairytale Hall, decorated as an elegant Royal Court where your little Princess or Prince will meet with Disney’s crowned stars. Also 7 Dwarfs Mine Train ride which will soon shake us all up. Big Thunder Mountain will be debuting a new interactive queue.

But perhaps the most amazing addition will be the way guests will experience and do everything. My Magic+ Magic Bands are RFID chip enhanced rubber bracelets, which will ease your trip (web-enhanced, pre-selection of fast passes, VIP seating for parades, fireworks, meet and greets, room keys) and allow you to have personal interaction with employees.

Around the rest of the World, in DownTown Disney, Splitsville Luxury Lanes has opened for bowling, dancing, playing pool and dining. In EPCOT, the France Pavilion has a new restaurant, Monsieur Paul and don’t forget about the amazing International Flower and Garden Show. It is the 15th Anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, so surprises and special events will be commemorating this milestone. Senses, A Disney Spa has opened at the Grand Floridian. The new California Grill will debut at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. And on June 27-30, football fans can participate at ESPN, with the Drew Brees Passing Academy and Tournament. Starbucks is coming to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Also at DownTown Disney, Conewiches are now available. A twist on a dessert item, there are two kinds, a Chili Cone Queso and a Meatball Cone.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS/ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE (Orlando):

Transformers The Ride 3D is opening for the summer. This ultra-immerse sensory experience puts guest on the frontlines of the intergalactic war between Autobots and Decepticons. The 3D film with fight simulation technology is set to redefine thrill rides.

Universal is celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular–100 Years of Movie Memories continues to delight evening guests. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem 3D ride and The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman (now in high def 3D) look fresh and new. Universal’s Superstar Parade is still entertaining the park guests and there is a new Blue Man Group show at City Walk. Also at City Walk, Hollywood Drive-In Golf.

The Summer brings the Universal Concert Series and Big Time Rush is the first headliner on June 8th, 2013. More acts will be announced in the next couple weeks.

As for the future, Harry Potter will continue to rule as an entire new land will be added. Hogwarts Express will run between the two parks. Gringotts Bank, will be a coaster ride and Diagon Alley will house new shops (Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes Shop and Borgin & Burkes shop) and some other dining venues. All of this will be coming next summer 2014.

SANTA CRUZ BEACH BOARDWALK:

The new roller coaster, Undertow Spinning Coaster is a 50 foot tall ride and will reach speeds of 40 mph along a 1400 foot long track. If you are on the west coast, enjoy the sea air while twisting and turning along the tracks.

CALIFORNIA GREAT AMERICA:

Retro is the name of the game at Great America, with the introduction of Gold Striker Wooden Roller Coaster. The 3100 foot long rides includes terrain-hugging S-turn, a high-speed station fly-by and a series of zero-G camelbacks and bunny hops at speeds topping 50 mph aboard Millennium Flyer trains.

DOLLYWOOD:

A toboggan water ride called River Rush Watercoaster is the new addition to Dollywood. This 237 foot tall conveyor belt sends visitors plunging down a 25 foot drop at a 45 degree angle. Getting wet will be guaranteed.

CEDAR POINT:

No where else is the coaster the king than at Cedar Point. Added to the madness will be The Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper is billed as the “tallest, fastest and longest winged coaster with the highest inversion of any coaster in the world.” Any questions?

SEAWORLD (Orlando):

Perfect for the Florida summertime swelter, here comes Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. Animal habitats, shops and restaurants are presented to the public behind the entrance guarded by 155 foot tall glaciers, glistening under the Florida sun. The ride is interactive, family friendly thrilling ride from a penguin’s point of view.

SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN:

Full Throttle is the world’s tallest vertical loop (160 feet) with riders traversing the loop twice, one inside, once outside going 70 mph. It will feature 3 launches including a backward launch. Not for the timid and definitely, before lunch.

SIX FLAGS FIESTA TEXAS:

The new hybrid coaster, The Iron Rattler, combines steel tracks on wooden supports. It will feature a barrel roll inversion and a series of beyond-vertical banked turns.

SILVER DOLLAR CITY:

Outlaw Run is the new wooden coaster featuring a double barrel roll and a 153 degree overbanked turn with nine airtime hills. You will be running for the hills!!

KING’S DOMINION:

Planet Snoopy, the world’s largest Peanuts themed area encompasses 14 child friendly acres, 8 new family rides (for a total of 18), 3 new live shows, including a BMX style bike show.

LEGOLAND-California:

A new 250 room hotel will make staying with the family a real treat. The themed floors are decorated with 3422 Lego models and there are plenty of play areas to delight the youngest to the oldest builder.

LEGOLAND -Florida:

A new water family water ride experience will be opening, Legends of China. A FUN FACT: Since its opening in 2012, 2 million Lego bricks have been added to the collections.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR CENTER:

Angry Birds Space Encounter is a 4500 square foot attraction incorporating Angry Birds, Space Pigs and other elements of the popular video game. The Space Center is also the new home for the space shuttle Atlantis, which is scheduled to open June 29, 2013.

So, gather up your courage, pack your bags, its going to be a GREAT summer!!!

 

Phyllis Samowitz is a Virtuoso Travel Advisor with Post Haste Travel in Hollywood Florida. Her goal is to turn travel planning details into memories that will last a lifetime. She is passionate about helping clients create extraordinary experiences, whether it be one night or a months long journey; a single traveler, family or large group. Her philosophy is based on the quote “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Spinning in Circles?

by Karen Meister

Post-Spring Break is always a hectic time.  Great vacation time quickly turns into FCATs, Finals, AP exams, graduations, proms, awards ceremonies and before you know it, the first of June has arrived.  You are so busy with day to day activity that planning for the summer is so hard to even contemplate right now.

And you are kicking yourself!  Why didn’t I take care of this months ago when I really planned to do it!!

Well, spinning in class is far preferred to spinning in circles.  You can have the kids home all summer and run CAMP MOM.  I’ve done it.

  1. WEEK ONE:  We relaxed, we bonded, we went to the movies, the beach, played in the balls, trampolined, swam in the pool.  We did chemistry and math while we cooked and we made play dates with friends.  We went to the grocery store and shopped together.  GREAT times!
  2. WEEK TWO:  It rained.  We played balloon tennis, we played board games, we had friends over, we decorated cupcakes, we ate lots of junk food, we read about characters of Greek mythology, we cleaned the house together (as if it was a game).  GOOD times!
  3. WEEK THREE:  Weather improved but now the storm was in the attitudes.  Kids saying, “We’re bored, no one home to play with, our friends are all at camp…”  I never felt the need to entertain my children 24/7 but it was hard to co-exist, entertain, and enrich three very active boys and stay on a budget.

Of course, as they got older, I was no longer a stay at home mom.  Instead of being Camp Mom to my three boys, I became Camp Director.   And needless to say, the budget was much bigger!!

There is great benefit in planning a summer that allows the kids to be away from you, so that you get some time, and they get some independent time.  But alas, you have waited till the last minute of summer planning.  So, here are your options:

  • Day camp – lots of choices for those 12 and under.
  • Sleep away camp – available to all kids between 6 and about 14 years old – many choices, prices, locations, personalities and activities.
  • Teen camps - for middle and high school students, age appropriate but get to do all the general activities from sports to dance to water skiing to sing around the camp fire.  But without the little kids around.
  • Middle School and High School Programs:
    • Outdoor Adventure – hiking, biking, sailing, kayaking, canoeing — the great outdoors
    • Community Service - travel with a purpose and teach English, develop sustainable environments, be part of a medical team, and more
    • Travel – seeing the world or seeing someone else’s neighborhood all opens the eyes of young and impressionable teens.  Traveling young establishes a taste for travel for life.
    • Language learning and immersion – Whether the language is Mandarin, Spanish, French or Portuguese, your teens can learn while living.  No better way to improve than living the language.
    • Improved Academics - If your teen is having trouble with a class, needs help in developing study skills, leadership development, SAT/ACT Prep, or special needs assistance, there are excellent summer programs.
    • Study Abroad – Any class you want can be taken for credit or for enrichment, while also experiencing a few weeks or a full summer overseas.
    • Pre-College Programs – So much to gain from learning what it’s like to be at a big college, small college, in a dorm, taking classes, eating in a school cafeteria (AND NOT GAINING THE FRESHMAN 10)…. Classes for enrichment, for college credit, and all over the country/world for that matter.
    • The College Prep Summer Plan - LET’S TALK.  Two to four years of summer and school planning and coordination designed to help your teen prepare for decision making when it comes to college direction.

But now, in order to plan the 13 weeks of summer that the children are out of school, you better get going.  I am sure you know by now that a Camp and Teen Consulting Expert is the only way to handle this situation quickly, efficiently and effectively.

 

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.

Special children get special camps

by Karen Meister

I often get calls from parents who start the dialogue with:  ”this is going to be a hard one for you, but I really need your help!”

They proceed to tell me about their child and how wonderful he or she is, bright, outgoing, loves animals, but….  and then there is the hesitancy and sometimes, the choked sentence follows.   He is somewhere on the spectrum and I really want him to learn to get along with others, be more independent, not get teased, just have fun….  I then follow with, “and you can use a break as well.”

And then the voice on the other end of the line goes from a bit choked up to a wash of tears.

I write today to simply say, you are not alone!  There are so many families facing similar dilemmas of loving their children with passion — because they love so many things about them, who they are and what they have accomplished.  They love their children because they are their parents and they are supposed to.  And they love them with an asterisk — I love them but I am so exhausted.

The good news is that there are so many summer opportunities that provide the right environment for children with specific requirements.  Whether it be a form of ADD or ADHD, defiant behavior, autism on all points on the spectrum, dyslexia, cancer, heart disease, peanut and tree nut allergies, crohns, diabetes or any other diagnosis on the alphabetic list of “conditions”, there is a safe, healthy environment for your child.

So the question is how to begin the process of finding just the right program?

1.  Are they/you ready for overnight camp?  As with any child, you must first determine if your child is ready to go away and/or if you believe a nudge to go away would be beneficial.  Are they able to sleep out at a friend or relatives house?  If the answer is yes, they are probably ready.  If the answer is no, you have to determine if leaving the home for a period of time is a necessary “push” required to help your child become more independent and self-reliant.

2.  Do your research.  The first step in doing your research is to be comfortable about talking openly about your specific situation and desired outcome.  You must find a reputable service to help guide you to safe, secure and appropriate programs.  Talking to other parents with similar home situations in conjunction with speaking with a camp expert is critical.  You want to talk with the director and other parents who have had children attend the different camps.  You really want to make sure that the staff to camper ratio is very small.  At least 3 to 1, and in many cases, 1 to 1 based on the circumstance of the need.  The facility needs to be safe and in good condition.

3.  Understand the camp community — special camp vs. mainstreaming.  You want to have an excellent understanding of the camp community.  Some families want their child to be in and among children with similar conditions so that they can get the therapeutic direction and assistance needed.  They don’t want their child to feel different or ostracized.  Some families want their child to be in a more mainstreamed environment so they will learn cues and behaviors from other children.  There is no one right answer, but what is right for your philosophy.

However, if your child is being mainstreamed into a traditional camp, you want to make sure the environment is welcoming.  For example, if the camp director or top staff has a special needs child, they will be empathetic to your needs and you can bet that the philosophy trickles down to the whole staff.  You can consider the opportunity for hiring a shadow counselor that can be made available to your child in order to keep the staff/camper ratio to a safe number for your child.

4.  Make sure the medical assistance is up to par.  As to meds, every camp is passing out meds to a large population of the camp.  You therefore, want to make sure that the medical staff is fully abreast of your child’s specific needs, you can package them for better administration, and be prepared for adjustments during the summer due to higher activity levels. Make sure the camp you select has a good doctor or RN on-premise.  If there is no doctor on premise, you want to make sure that a pediatrician makes regular visits to the camp and has standing orders in town to accept campers any time of day or night.  The doctor should be within 10 minutes of the camp.  And the emergency medical facility should be within 20 minutes of the camp.

5.  Programming should be varied and instructional.  When your child has specific needs, you want to make sure that they are gaining self confidence through skill building.  Whether the skills are dribbling a basketball, learning how to make a bed, or appropriate table manners, there should be a true sense of accomplishment by the end of the summer.  You want it to be identifiable, measurable, and most certainly applause-worthy upon their return.

And while your child is off to camp, learning and being successful, please make sure to give yourself some time.  Know that you have provided a fabulous opportunity and gift to your child, and you deserve the spare moments of peace and tranquility.

 

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.