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Kid-Sick or Kid-Free-Jubilee?

Posted by on June 14, 2019

Kid-Sick or Kid-Free-Jubilee?

Tips from a First-Time Sleepaway Camp Parent…

who also happens to be a child and family psychologist

Andrea Gurney, PhD, Deer Run Alumna, Camp Mom

 

Okay, parents of campers—let’s be honest, for some of us, the mere thought of dropping our kids off on the shores of Winnipesaukee causes our stomach to drop and our eyes to water. We are going to miss our kids so much! For others, we cannot wait to have some down time and our “to-do” list is growing by the day. Perhaps for many of us, we find ourselves somewhere in between—excited for some kid-free time but worried that we will be the ones crying on Incoming Day as we wave goodbye.

Wherever you fall, let me start by saying this: it’s okay! It is completely expected and “normal” to experience a myriad of emotions upon separation from our children (whether it’s the first time or the tenth time you’ve been separated!); it’s known as “kidsickness.” Here are five tips and reminders to help you (and therefore your soon-to-be camper!) relish the camp experience:

One: Remember the Benefits. There are numerous reasons we send our kids to camp: a positive Christian experience and strengthening of faith, establishing new friendships, learning new skills, experiencing the outdoors. Think through why your family chose to send your child to camp. Remembering the specific reasons will remind you of the gift you are giving your child by sending them to Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost!

Going a little deeper – be assured that:

  • Getting kids outside of their comfort zone leads to growth.
  • Sending children to camp gives them the oh-so-important message you can do this; it empowers them and helps them develop tenacity and grit.
  • When kids are away from home, they learn decision-making and problem-solving skills, which in turn increases their competence and self-confidence.
  • Living, playing, and working together encourages teamwork and increases collaboration and negotiation skills.
  • Being unplugged and outdoors not only promotes appreciation and stewardship of God’s creation, but also allows children to delay gratification, reflect, slow down, and fully embrace human connections (which is what we are created to do)! Taking a break from technology also improves sleep.

Note: this is true for all of us!!

 

Two: Stay in the Present. As parents, it’s natural to want to protect our children. We want to keep them from harm and make sure nothing goes awry. We might even believe that somehow, if we worry just enough, we can control things and make them go right. However, this often leads us down a path of anxiety as we begin to parent out of fear. So when you find yourself thinking of “what if” scenarios, ground yourself in the present, evaluate whether your concern is based on fact or fear, and think about realistic and reasonable courses of action.

 

Three: Focus on the Positive. Optimistic thinking is a resiliency skill that we develop in face of hardship or stress. Although it won’t change the situation—in other words, it won’t bring your child back home from camp tomorrow—it gives us perspective and changes our attitude.

 

Four: Keep in Touch. Although there will be no care packages this summer at Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost, rest hour will always be a highlight of the day, with the million dollar question being, “Did I get mail?”  There is no better time and place for good, old-fashioned letter writing. (This is a great skill to teach your kids, not just the lost art of writing a letter, but addressing an envelope!) And if you can’t wait for your news to get to Camp in three days, you can subscribe to Bunk Notes and send your camper letters, puzzles and pictures from home.

 

Five: Practice Self-Care. While your kids are away at camp, this is the perfect opportunity to take time for yourself! Be mindful to not fill all your time with additional tasks, but rather enjoy activities that you wouldn’t otherwise do with kids in tow (e.g., a long or strenuous hike or bike ride, spa day, eating out at an adventurous restaurant, sleeping in, a weekend getaway, etc!).

As summer approaches and you and your child make your packing list for camp, tuck these reminders away in your head and heart, breathe deeply, and trust that the Maker of heaven and earth goes before us, behind us, and beside us.

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 Deer Run staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at AndreaGurney.com or Instagram @andrea_gurney for practical tips and insights on life!

What’s in Your Suitcase?

Posted by on June 7, 2019

What’s in Your Suitcase?

Five Tips to Help Prepare Your Child for Camp

by Andrea Gurney, PhD, Deer Run Alumna, Camp Mom

 

As the days get longer and our children become antsier it means only one thing—summer is approaching and camp is around the corner! Blobbing, Inspiration Point cookouts, hiking, new friends, silly songs, and cabin devos await our children. Excitement can also be accompanied by nervousness—whether it’s articulated or not. So as you get out the backpacks and duffle bags, I’d like to offer some packing tips to help your child have a successful camp experience.

 

One: Get organized together! In this case, organization equates to three things: Make a checklist. Or really, just refer to the great one that is in Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and MRO’s handbook. Think through, with your camper, what might need to be purchased or borrowed in order to cross off all the essentials. Feeling equipped and prepared will boost your camper’s confidence.

If items need to be purchased, go shopping together. This can be a sweet time of bonding and enable your kiddo to get excited as they visualize a bit of their day-to-day experience and all the fun ahead.

Pack alongside them (not for them!), empowering them to choose specifics, and talking with them about actually using the items they are packing! For example, when you are both going through toiletries, talk about the idea of putting sunscreen on each morning before they leave the cabin, flossing their teeth every night, etc. When children are a part of the decision-making process, they feel empowered and are more likely to have a positive experience!

 

Two: Talk through expectations. I love New York Times bestselling author Susan Cain’s story about her first sleep away camp experience. Raised in a book-reading family of introverts, she packed a suitcase full of books, eagerly anticipating the silent reading time that would take place with her cabinmates. Imagine her surprise when cabin time meant memorizing rambunctious chants rather than reading!

It behooves us to talk with our kids about their expectations of camp. By doing so, we can gently correct any misguided assumptions and help them articulate concerns or set goals. Additionally, when we make time to talk with our children about their expectations, we better equip and prepare them psychologically as well as help to prevent disappointment, frustration and anger as a result of unmet hopes and expectations.

 

Three: Anticipatory Guidancedo it! Anticipatory guidance may not be a term with which you are familiar, but essentially, it’s all about the mental prep work we can do ahead of an actual situation, so that when time comes, we are more mentally and emotionally prepared for the event. For example, sporadically and casually talking to your campers about the potentially challenging “what if” situations:

  • What if you don’t get any of the activities you hoped for?
  • What if your counselor isn’t your favorite person?
  • What if your bunk make repeatedly teases you?
  • What if you get sick?

Having these conversations beforehand will not only better prepare your child for camp, but it will also normalize their feelings when they occur and increase their coping strategies.

Quick tip: when talking through the “what if’s, let your child take the lead in answering the questions. Then, after validating their emotions and ideas, offer additional problem solving strategies and talk through those. Additionally, remind your child of ways they have navigated difficult situations in the past as this not only communicates your belief in them but boosts their own confidence.

 

Four: Prepare for Homesickness. Speaking of anticipatory guidance, homesickness is a great subject to briefly talk through with your child. Many kids feel a twinge of homesickness at some point during their camp experience so when you are talking through the “what if’s” be sure to bring up this one if your child does not. And normalize, normalize, normalize—meaning let them know it is completely normal and expected to have these feelings. Don’t jump to reassurance or “fix it” mode right away; this is actually dismissive of their feelings! In other words, do not respond with “Oh, you’ll be just fine” or “You’re going to love every minute of camp.” Validate their emotions, empathize with them, and then remind them that homesick feelings are temporary and talk through what they can do if they feel homesick (i.e. engage in positive self talk such as “I am safe even though I am someplace different”; find a trusted counselor to talk with; write a letter home; pray).

 

Five: Keep the lines of communication open! We want to create cultures of communication in our homes where our kids know they can talk with us about anything, including their worries and fears. One of the best ways to do this is to listen, listen, and listen some more. Our brains literally settle down when we feel understood! So in the days leading up to camp, make sure to slow down and spend time listening to your camper; simply paraphrasing what you hear them saying is a powerful tool and will lead to deeper conversation and dialogue.

 

Lastly, as a psychologist who has worked with children, adolescents, couples, and families for more than two decades—I can’t help but also include a couple of quick “don’ts” to be mindful of:

  1. Don’t keep talking about how much you are going to miss them.
  1. Avoid a long, tearful goodbye on Incoming Day. Offer smiles and boosts of confidence instead of your tears and strong emotions.
  1. Don’t send letters that speak about how lonely you are, how quiet the house is, or (on the other end) how you are going to Disneyland without them.
  1. Don’t offer an escape plan; in other words, do not promise you’ll come and pick them up if things are hard. That actually undermines your child and sends the message that you don’t believe they are capable of working through challenges and overcoming hard things.

So there you have it…some do’s and don’ts as we pack alongside our children and prepare them for the journey ahead. Stay tuned for next week’s post when I’ll talk about how we can manage our own potential “kidsickness!”

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 Deer Run staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at AndreaGurney.com or Instagram @andrea_gurney for practical tips and insights on life!

A WILD Reunion

Posted by on May 24, 2019

A WILD Reunion

by Julia Page, Deer Run & WILD Alumna

Nearly 8 years after graduating from WILD (Moose River Outpost’s leadership program, Wilderness Intensive Leadership Development), I was headed back to Camp Brookwoods and Deer Run for the very first WILD Reunion. There, I would be greeted by a group of other WILD alumni and staff. All would be excited to spend the weekend reliving those precious days in the backwoods of Maine and forming new friendships with others who carried their own related memories.

Julia far right

Saturday morning, we circled up to pray before heading out to the trailhead of Mount Chocorua. The night before, as I was driving in the dark and pouring rain to get to camp, my mind had been cluttered, thoughts racing between the events of the day and all the work that would await my return. But starting along the wooded path that led us to the rocky peak of Chocorua, my heart and breathing slowed, and the worries faded. God granted me rest, even as my body worked to scramble up boulders, reminding me through His creation of His power and providence. As we climbed up tracks of snow, trying to balance on the narrow ridge of hard pack, we recounted stories of WILD adventures, compared notes on how the WILD experience has evolved, and grew in relationship with each other, whether we had spent two summers in Maine together or had just met.

Mount Chocorua Summit, elevation 3,478 feet

Approaching the summit, the wind roared and snow flurries blew into our faces. “We’re WILD!” someone shrieked, and we huddled for a picture to commemorate the moment, bracing each other against the wind and cold. Nearing the end of our descent, we encountered a rushing stream with no clear way to comfortably cross to the yellow blaze-marked trail on the other side. Hannah began crawling out across a log, and I followed. Then all of a sudden, “She’s doing it!” I turned to look, and Bridget was marching straight across the stream, boots fully submerged. We were WILD, after all.

That evening at camp, after a delicious dinner and a walk down to the waterfront to soak in the view, we gathered by the fire to toast s’mores, share our highs and lows from the day, and tell more stories. Whether WILD was one or eight years ago, we had so much shared experience: trail food disasters, powerful spiritual moments, crossing Moosehead Lake in formidable winds, and a few antics and inside jokes.

We closed the weekend with worship in the outdoor chapel on Sunday morning, reflecting on what it means to know God and singing songs of praise. Looking around at the circle of faces, I was struck by how united I felt with this group of people, most of whom I had met that weekend. We were united by the same things that had drawn me to WILD 8 years before: a love for our God and for the mountains and woods He gave us to enjoy.

Julia Page is a Camp Deer Run and Moose River Outpost WILD alumna. She grew up in Winchester, MA and is currently a graduate student in Boston. page.julia.e@gmail.com

 

 

Pre-Camp Prep

Posted by on May 10, 2019

Pre-Camp Prep

by Lisa Forkner, Camp Mom & Deer Run Alumna

 

With Mother’s Day upon us and Father’s Day around the corner, it’s a good time to recognize the amazing efforts that camp parents make each year in order for their campers to get to camp and have a great experience. We celebrate you, parents! At Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River we know that it takes an enormous amount of time, resources, and planning before you drive through the gates for Incoming Day.

The Forkner Family

Though it’s been a while since my kids were campers, I remember well those last few days before camp: the flurry of necessary errands, the piles of clothing to be labeled, the sometimes-anxious camper hearts looking for assurance that they will do fine at camp. As a seasoned camp parent, I would love to offer a few thoughts about how we navigated these pre-camp waters and did our best to set our children up for a great camp experience.

First, the packing list. Our camp packing list system worked wonders for us. Two-week session? Had a list for that. Four-week? List for that. LDP? Yup, list. We spent careful time thinking ahead about what the kids really needed to have with them at camp, then added a few extra things they would like to have. Those lists evolved year-to-year. When the kids were young, I packed for them; later on, they insisted on packing from the lists themselves, giving them a sense of ownership in the process and making my job a lot easier.

The Wapiti cabin, 1980

So, what to include, besides the obvious clothing and gear? A crazy hat for Brookwoods’ breakfast cookouts. Indestructible foam rubber shoes for those wet days and trips down to the beach. Definitely a toothbrush. An inexpensive digital camera to capture all those new experiences. Photos from home for hanging around their bunks. Maybe create “Mad-Lib” style fill-in-the-blank stationery for your younger campers to make letter-writing easier and more likely. They can then fill in words to describe their days, their cabins, their activities, etc., at camp. (Include self-addressed stamped envelopes for the littlest campers.) One of our most innovative packing ideas: a large roll of non-slip foam shelf liner to lay between the camper’s mattress and sleeping bag… no more sliding off the bunk in the middle of the night! (How great is that?) Fishing gear. Baseball glove. Toothbrush. Maybe a light blanket for rest hour. A nylon hammock for your older camper to string up on an overnight hike? And, finally, a copy of the packing list for them to use as they eventually pack to return back home. And did I say toothbrush?

While it’s great to gather your camper’s necessary supplies, it is even more important to prepare his or her heart for the camp experience. As parents, be assured that sending your child to camp—especially to a Christian camp like Brookwoods, Deer Run, or Moose River Outpost—is one of the very best things you can do for them. Do you know why?

At camp, away from home and from technology and school pressures, kids unplug and grow in creativity, confidence, self-understanding, and independence. And at our camps, through meaningful Christ-centered relationships in the midst of God’s awe-inspiring creation, they experience spiritual transformation as they live and play within our nurturing Christian community. (Again, how great is THAT?) Yes, it was hard each Incoming Day as we said goodbye to our kids and drove back out of the camp’s gates, but we always knew that leaving them in camp’s care was one of the very best things we had ever done for them.

So, as you prepare your child for camp and begin to think about that packing list, consider sending them off with these extra-special provisions:

  • Tell them how camp is an exciting, amazing, beautiful place.
  • Tell them about the new friends and counselors they will come to love while they are there.
  • If they are anxious, remind them that they are strong and brave, and that you know they “can do it”.
  • Repeat how you can’t wait to see how they grow from their time at camp, especially in their understanding of God’s love for them.
  • And then ask them, again, if they remembered to pack that toothbrush!

Thanks, parents, for all you have done and will do so that your campers can come away to camp this summer. Can’t wait to see you on Incoming Day!

Lisa (Bennett) Forkner serves on the Christian Camps and Conferences, Inc. Board of Directors and, with her husband Kent, have three young adult children, all of whom attended Brookwoods and Deer Run as campers, LDP’s, and staff members. Lisa herself was a camper, CIT (LDP), and counselor, first attending Deer Run as a Whitetail in 1978. Favorite camp memories are Miss Deer Run contests, cabin nights on the waterfront, and the Chibougamau canoe trip. Her passions include spiritual formation, Christian higher education, drawing and painting, cooking, spending time with the family dog Jethro, and anything related to being at camp! fork.family@gmail.com

 

 

Camp Community

Posted by on May 3, 2019

Camp Community

John Lindsell, Brookwoods alumnus    

 

Brookwoods is many things for different people. For me, it is community. My connection to Brookwoods goes back to birth. I spent my first summer there as a baby in 1952. No memories there! In 1957, Doc A. (Lawrence Andreson) and my dad, Doc L. (Harold Lindsell), travelled to Europe for the summer with their wives. The children—the Andresons and the Lindsells—spent the summer at camp. Donny and Jimmy Andreson were proper campers. The rest of us, we were just staff kids. We lived in the Eagle cabin, cared for by Aunt Claire and Uncle George Olson. With their two girls, we totaled seven kids under one roof.

It took a village and the community looked out for us all. Uncle J.J. (Thomassian) threatened to put me in the potato peeler—dangling me above the scary looking machine. I also spent time looking for the “pitcher squeezer” in the kitchen, a favorite prank pulled on the younger members of the community.

I returned in 1961 at age 9 for my first experience as a camper, living in the Porcupine Cabin for the month of August. It was a tad overwhelming to be without my family for the first time and for such a long time. But men and women like Uncle Woody and Aunt Dawn (Strodel), Aunt Grace (Strodel), Aunt Jennie and Uncle Carl (Berggren) came along side us to comfort us when down and to encourage us in our successes. Once again, community at work. Uncle J.J. would lead us in special Christian Camp songs, singing scripture verses and the like. Those are sweet memories and helped establish my Christian faith in those early days.

In Junior High, I went to camp each summer. I was a Bear and then a Ranger for two years. The camp also had a new addition—girls at Camp Deer Run!

My second year as a Ranger, I was a CIT and worked at the Boathouse. During this time, various people poured into my life.  Our counselors were always helpful and tough. After all, we were Rangers! I am especially grateful for Uncle George (Egli) at the Boathouse. He took an interest in me that led me to earning my skipper’s certification in sailing and my eventual assignment at the Boathouse. During those years, community was again a constant theme. The very people who had watched over me so carefully when I was a boy, also watched over me as a teenager, investing in my character and spirituality.

College, work, marriage, and children followed. Our girls both went to Deer Run as campers and then in college joined the staff as counselors or other roles.

In 2001, I got a phone call from Bob Strodel asking if I wanted to drive ski boats for the summer. I signed on. My wife, Stephanie, worked with Aunt Rose (Thomassian) in the Craft Shop. Both of my daughters were also on staff that summer. It was our turn to give back and help lead the community, serving young people in a meaningful way.

In 2013, I came back to serve as Waterfront Director, walking in the footsteps of people like Uncle J.J., Uncle George, and many, many others. And now my grandchildren and grand nieces and nephews are campers, the fourth generation!

Camp is a community of men and women, boys and girls, who gather together for about 10 weeks each summer. Together, we serve God and learn how to deepen our relationship with Him, and how to serve one another. We do so at one of the most beautiful spots on God’s green earth, using camping and other outdoor activities as the tools to hone our character, skills, and our relationship with Christ.

Over the 75 year history of Brookwoods, the leadership has employed a variety of ways to help bring us closer to Christ: Sunday services overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee is always a special time, early morning devotions (PQT), songs sung during meals, small group discussions in our cabins, exposure to nature through spending time in the woods, mountains, on waterways, time spent counseling with the Camp Pastor—all with the goal that we might understand we are fully known and deeply loved by God, our Savior. Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run and Moose River Outpost are communities of fun, communities of learning, and most importantly, communities of faith.

My family, and my sisters’ families, are all looking forward to returning to Brookwoods this July to celebrate its 75thAnniversary. We hope that you’ll join us; we can share more camp stories around the campfire.

John Lindsell has spent most of his working career as a head of school, serving schools in the southeastern United States. He is currently the Head of School at Oakbrook Preparatory School in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  The extended Lindsell family has been deeply involved in the Ministry of Camp Brookwoods and Deer Run since its inception in 1944.