Assessing Summer Adventure Camp Readiness
Questions to consider in order to assess readiness:
- Has your child slept away from home before, at a relatives or friends house? Was it successful?
- Was it easy or hard for your child to be convinced to sleep away and then to stay away the whole night?
- Can your child take care of their own needs for the most part?
- Does your child express an interest in attending camp?
- How much persuasion is needed to convince your child to go to camp or to a specific camp?
- Does your child generally sleep through the night?
- Is your child able to ask for help or state personal needs to adults when having a problem?
- Does your child rarely experience incontinence at night or during the day?
- Is your child able to express feelings in words reasonably well?
- When upset, will your child eventually ask for and accept help?
- Does your child recover from setbacks reasonably well?
- Has your child started taking a new medication or had an emotional setback just before camp starts?
- Are you and your child comfortable with the communication and cell phone policies during camp?
- If flying to camp, are you and your child comfortable with the airline policies and camp procedures regarding minors flying without an adult?
Prepare for Camp
Both you and your camper have determined camp readiness, but you still worry about homesickness. Here are some things you could do with/for your camper to help mitigate any homesickness that might creep up on while at camp.
- In some cases homesickness stems from nervousness about one activity, like backpacking or rock climbing. Go over all of the camp’s activities with your camper so that they know what to expect, perhaps putting more focus on the activities or situations she may be more nervous about.
- Have “practice sleepovers” before camp by letting your camper sleep over at friends’ houses for consecutive nights.
- Discuss what camp could be like and consider role-playing certain potential camp situations that your camper may be nervous about or hasn’t considered yet.
- Pre-write letters to be distributed to your camper throughout camp. Provide these letters to Alpengirl ahead of camp as mail cannot be received during camp.
- Send your camper off to camp with one or two addressed, stamped envelopes and paper for them to write letters to you.
- Don’t bribe your camper to come to camp. This sends negative messages and if you are resorting to bribing, they are probably not ready.
- Pack a personal item from home that will make your camper feel more comfortable.
- Talk to your camper about being away from home for the camp’s duration. Let your camper know that you will miss them and that you know they are a strong person who can go away to camp and enjoy it.
Homesickness at Camp
Homesickness is completely normal and it’s not unusual for campers to experience a few days or bouts of homesickness near the beginning of camp, before the fun activities start and before they have really solidified new friendships.
Alpengirl’s adventure camps are appealing to campers who are ready to try a low-pressure adventure camp for the first time away from home. Alpengirl camp is a great place to work through the challenges of being away from home because campers are constantly busy with games and activities and are surrounded by a family-like group of new friends. Alpengirls come away from camp feeling accomplished in the challenges of being away from home, outdoor tent living, and reaching high peaks and lakes. They make many new friends and have increased endurance levels and positive self-esteem. Alpengirls are inspired!
For most campers, Alpengirl camp is a totally new kind of camp, kids are a long way from home, without a friend or family member and sleeping in tents and living outdoors for an extended period of time; you can expect a few days of adjustment in gaining personal comfort, becoming more resilient and making real bonds with others. If your camper gets homesick at camp there may be a few tears, a stomachache, and declarations of missing home and family and sometimes a desire to call home or return home. We commonly see homesickness creep in at night before bed and in tents, we see homesickness exacerbated by nervousness with an upcoming backpacking trip or activity that they have a fear of and are not sure if they can do. Also, if campers are not feeling like they have bonded with new friends or if perhaps they feel like there are “no others at camp like them” homesick feelings can be intensified. There are less than 12 campers in a group at camp together, so, it’s a small and personal group and feelings are easily shared and made better or worse together as a group. It’s not uncommon for homesickness to become contagious in teen youth groups of this size and personal proximity and closeness. It’s also not uncommon for campers to bond over homesickness and help each other get through it and rise above it and have fun. Lifelong friendships can stem from one homesick episode.
Camp Staff Caring for Homesickness
At pre-camp staff training, the Alpenguides will role-play scenarios of camper homesickness, they’ll receive helpful tips in how to care for campers with homesickness, and they’ll learn how to identify when homesickness becomes unhealthy for an individual or the camp group. Alpenguides are not therapists, but, will do their best to work through homesickness with your camper if they get homesick at camp. We care about your child and want them to remain at camp and have the fantastic time we know they can have if they want to and are ready to. To help her with homesickness we’ll talk to campers and listen to what they have to say and give a hug if one is desired. We’ll reassure a camper that feelings like this are totally normal and that it can take time to get used to being away from home in a new situation like camp. We’ll try to get a camper to talk about what is most exciting about at camp and have a camper look ahead to that, we’ll keep campers busy so they have less down time to think about home, and we’ll address a campers concerns. Camp staff will continue to work with your camper for as long as homesickness is expressed, until we think that it is detrimental to the well being of the camper or others at camp. If there is more than a bit of homesickness during camp, camp staff will call and consult with camp parents on how to best proceed and receive helpful parent information that may assist the camper in moving beyond homesickness. If camp is well underway and homesickness is debilitating or interrupts the groups enjoyment and a camper continues to expresses a desire to go home or to be calling home in order to get through camp, staying at this type of wilderness based adventure camp is not an option. It’s possible that this type of overnight camp was too much at this stage and that the camper is just not ready yet. Don’t punish your camper for coming home early and you can try it again next year after encouraging more independent actions and overnights away from home throughout the year.