Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
Here is another popular article from Terrie Lynn Bittner
A study by the National Study of Youth and Religion shows that children with LDS parents have a far higher attendance at religious summer camps than any other religion. 78% of all children with LDS parents attend camp, with second place going to children with conservative Protestant parents at 58%. We’re doing a great job of getting our children to camp, so it’s important now to think about how to prepare our children to have a wonderful experience while they are there.
Camp is most difficult for teenagers who have never been away from home overnight and for those who do not have friends at camp. If possible, be sure your child has spent enough time away from you to be comfortable with their week away from home. Send letters to your child—you will need to mail most of them before your child actually leaves home—so he has something from you everyday. Include some sort of little trinket, such as a favorite comic strip or a piece of jewelry. Parents are generally not supposed to call their child, so once he or she is there, keep yourself busy so you won’t worry. Most teenagers have a wonderful time once they settle in.
If your child does not have friends at camp, ask an older teenager to keep an eye on your child and perhaps help her to meet someone. Many girls camps have a secret sister program and also assign older teenagers to each cabin who help their girls settle in and feel at home.
Talk about camp in a positive way. If you have been to camp, share your experiences. If you haven’t, find out what will happen there and share this information with your child. Encourage older teens to share positive experiences with your child, so she will be excited about it. If she expresses concerns, talk about them honestly and help her plan solutions. What will she do if she is homesick? What happens if she gets sick? What if she doesn’t make a friend? Encourage her to seek out her adult and youth leaders if she faces a problem.
If she anticipates homesickness, tell her the best way to cope with that is to stay very busy and to help someone else. If she is lonely or afraid, she can look for another girl who is even more lonely and afraid. Encourage her to befriend this girl and think of ways to help her new friend feel at home. In the process of helping someone else, she will forget her own challenges.
The very first day is usually the hardest. One twelve-year-old who was strongly anticipating homesickness was asked to deliver a small package for another teen, but to sneak it into her cabin and get it into her mailbox without the teenager noticing. She spent the entire bus ride trying to decide how to do this. When she arrived, instead of heading to her cabin to cry, she busied herself trying to get that package into the mailbox in the cabin without getting caught. By the time she succeeded, she was busy anticipating her friend’s discovery of the package, and when that had been accomplished, she was too busy with camp activities to remember to cry.
Camp is a wonderful experience for most teens, one they will remember all their lives. After the first year, they will probably anticipate camp all year long, but a few simple preparations can insure they have a good time right from the start.