Post camp RE-ENTRY:
How Parents Can Help Children Transition Well
by Andrea Gurney, PhD, Deer Run Alumna, & Camp Mom
Campers investigating Frog Pond
The sweet time on the shores of Winnipesauke and Heald Pond have somehow come and gone. Campouts, blobbing, Color wars, waterskiing, Narnia, morning devos, and Chapel times filled and nurtured our children’s hearts, minds, and bodies. And now it’s over. Our kids are back home, getting ready to transition to the school year yet still holding on to the memories of camp. How can we help them re-enter smoothly? Here are some quick tips to help both parents and campers reboot.
1. Give your kiddo space. Like all of us, kids need time and space to process an experience. Although we as parents are incredibly eager to “hear all about it”, let’s be mindful that our children are still mulling over their camp experience and insisting that they share it all right away impedes their process.
2. LISTEN actively when your child wants to share about camp. Refrain from questioning, correcting, or giving instruction, as this undermines the choices they made and ultimately, their competence and confidence. Simply take the posture of a listener and allow stories and memories to be shared over time!
3. Related to the first two points, remember that being away at camp has given kids psychological ownership – the feeling that it belongs to them. It’s one of the reasons (whether we realize it or not!) that we send kids to camp. We want them to grow and be challenged, develop grit, and become more independent. So be intentional and respectful of their psychological ownership– what happened to them at camp belongs to them. What a freeing gift!
4. Continue to foster independence. While our kids were away at camp, they took care of themselves. They applied their own sunscreen, packed their backpacks for the overnight, brushed their own teeth, and maybe even showered once or twice. They even did chores in the cabin and undoubtedly, learned new skills. Often, they are eager to show off their newfound abilities. (Anyone else have campers who are arguing over who gets to be “Jennie or Waiter” for the day?) So let’s be mindful to continue to foster their growth and independence! It’s way too easy to slip back into the pattern of doing things for our kids; our brains, after all, prefer what is automatic and to change an old routine requires more attention and mental energy.
5. Cultivate emotional intelligence and problem solving. Remember that while our kids were at Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, or Moose River Outpost, they navigated emotional, social, and mental challenges without you! They figured out how to interact with a bossy bunkmate, listen to others who had a different perspective, problem solve when they didn’t get their first or second choice activities during sign-ups, make new friends, navigate group situations, and the list goes on. So when you’re tempted to jump in and help rescue your kiddo from a sticky social situation, don’t! Instead, acknowledge the difficulty, provide comfort and empathy, and then give them the time and space to figure it out on their own, just like they did at camp.
Camp friends already! This crew is following their parents’ camp footsteps. (Susan Bradley & York Arico, Kate Bradley MacLeod and Dan DiBase) Andrea’s Deer Runners, Madeline and Kate Hashbarger, are pictured far right.
6. On a more sentimental note, keep the memory of camp alive! For my girls, that includes things such as: displaying their rockets made at camp in their rooms; having their camp song book on our kitchen table so we can sing a camp songs together; continuing to use their camp devotional book; watching the chapel and banquet clips posted on Instagram and Facebook from their session; watching the July and August finale videos on YouTube, and reviewing and sharing the Bible verses they learned at camp.
Camp offers so many gifts to not only our children, but to us as parents. May we continue to reap the benefits of what our children learned at camp as we welcome them home and build our fall routines.
Thank you to all of those at Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost for investing in the lives of our children. You have challenged them, cared for them, nurtured them, and loved them well. This is, I believe, perhaps the greatest thing we can be a part of —nurturing another soul and building Kingdom relationships.
Andrea Gurney, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at Westmont College, and author of Reimagining Your Love Story: Biblical and Psychological Practices for Healthy Relationships.
An East Coast camp girl at heart, and Camp Deer Run (Alton, NH) staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at AndreaGurney.com
@andrea_gurney for practical tips and insights on life!