By: Wendy Siegel
Some helpful hints for parents planning to visit camps this summer:
1. Don’t go by what “everyone” says about Camp X – make your own decisions and go with your heart.
Everyone else isn’t you. So if you’re listening to the chatter or rumor mill or plug your ears and put on blinders. Find the camp that feels right for YOU. People love to talk even when they don’t actually KNOW that what they’re saying is true. They’ve “heard” that the camp you’re looking for is for spoiled rotten kids or they’ve “heard” that there are too many counselors from abroad or they’ve “heard” that the camp directors don’t return calls or that there are too many kids from one town…Do the research yourself. This is for YOUR child and your family and not for anyone else.
2. Prepare your child for what’s in store…ask the camp director how the tour will go.
Will you be with your child on the tour? Will your child go with a counselor and separate from you? Will there be activities? Many kids need a preview to help calm their nerves.
3. And speaking of nerves…it’s totally normal for your child to be nervous or anxious about going on a tour or participating in a camp rookie day.
This is a really big deal – for some kids because they’re really scared about the idea of sleepaway camp, for some because it’s the unknown. Don’t roll your eyes or tell your child there’s nothing to be nervous about…lean in and talk it through. Let your child know that you understand and it’s okay to be nervous. Maybe even tell your child that you’re nervous, too. Talk through what s/he is nervous about…and if your child can’t vocalize exactly what it is that’s causing nerves, that’s okay too.
If you have a child with food allergies or any other allergies, inform the camp when you arrive or ahead of time. Lots of camps give snacks/treats while on tour so it’s helpful for them to plan for your visit.
5. Operation same page
Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page and that you’ve prepared your partner for what to expect from your tour or tours. If you’ve researched all of the camps you’re seeing and you’ve planned all of the tours, make sure s/he knows what is ahead. And…do your best to keep your strong opposing opinions from popping up along the tour. Save your arguments and disagreements for the car or for when you get home. Keep the peace in front of the tour giver!
6. Avoid this awkward moment!
And while we’re on the topic of awkward tour mishaps…if you say to your child prior to a tour, “You’re not actually going to GO to this camp – you’re going to another camp. But we’re going to tour this camp because our neighbor/cousin/friend goes here”…I assure you your child is going to share that information with his or her tour giver. And THAT is SUPER awkward. Set the right tone and have your child go into everything with an open mind and heart!
7. Channel your inner camper…and unplug!
We KNOW that we all live in a connected world and texts and emails are super important to read on a timely basis. Do your best to “disconnect” for the hour or hours of your camp visits. Do it for you – so you can really get a sense of the camp you’re visiting and see and feel and understand what the camp is all about. And do it for the tourgiver that is taking the time to spend with you. Tour givers care about the relationship they build with you, and when you’re on the phone it’s hard to stay on track and connect. And, it’s…borderline…rude.
8. Take it all in!
When you are preparing to leave the camp you’ve been visiting, make sure you have AND your child has taken it all in. If your child doesn’t remember seeing the gymnastics center or the ceramics station or something that is important to you, ask to go back. This is your chance to see everything before you make the all-important camp decision.
9. Take your future camper’s lead
When you get back into the car as you leave each camp, you’re either going to be super energetic and excited…or exhausted from the heat or the sun or the long day. So is your child. Follow your child’s lead…if s/he wants to talk and answer questions, ask away. But if s/he is quiet and not super chatty, give your child time. Some kids need to absorb what they’ve seen and heard and experienced before they’re ready to talk and share with you their thoughts.
10. Post tour follow up
After it’s all over…and after you get home…and after you and your family make your decision…PLEASE…respond to follow-up emails or calls from camp directors. Ask your questions…let them know you’re still deliberating and need more time…deferring the decision or waiting another year…or a quick email telling the camps you visited and did NOT choose that you’ve made a different decision and chosen another camp. You cannot imagine how appreciated this gesture is after the energy, effort and time camp directors put into your visit – whatever the outcome.
ENJOY your tours…have FUN! Relive your own camp memories while seeking out the perfect summer home where your child will build his or her own!