As teachers, preparing a class for school camp is an integral part of creating an environment for each child to grow and develop essential life skills. But what about the parents? How can we prepare them for the moment they wave goodbye and watch their child embark on a journey of self discovery? Without them.
Camps can be tough for parents. So what can we do to help?
BE ALL EARS
If a parent is anxious about something, you can be pretty sure the child will be too. Creating an opportunity to talk with the parents prior to the camp is vital. Providing the medical form and any dietary requirements well before the camp allows areas requiring specialised attention to be identified. Having an information session is a good way to cover general details, especially the overview of activities, routines etc, however meeting with a parent to discuss particular concerns enables everyone to be on the same page.
Common questions parents have about their child going on camp tend to fall into 5 main categories such as:
- Safety – what safety practices are in place?
- Homesickness – what if my child can’t sleep at night?
- Lack of enjoyment – what if my child won’t join in or hates the food?
- Social issues – who will my child share a cabin with?
- Special needs – how will my child’s special needs be catered for?
Answering questions early on and having a plan for individual cases alleviates a great deal of stress as the camp date approaches.
Children can be very different at home than they are at school, so it’s also good to ask parents questions like:
- What routines does your child have that helps them get to sleep?
- How does your child go about facing new challenges?
- What behaviour does your child demonstrate if they are upset at home?
HATCH A PLAN
When everyone works together the child benefits. Encouraging the parent to spend one on one time preparing their child for camp, will not only help the child, it’s also therapy for the parent.
Every family will have a different way to prepare for camp (particularly for first timers), but it’s good to have a range of suggestions up your sleeve like:
- Talk to your child about your own camp experiences – how did you overcome fears, challenges?
- Help your child practise the various skills required for the activities e.g. plan a bushwalk, canoeing trip, extra swimming lessons.
- Brush up on skills to help with independence e.g. applying sunscreen, using a torch.
- Go through the packing list together and encourage your child to organise their clothing.
- Read stories that have a camping theme e.g. The Wombats go on Camp by Roland Harvey, Pippa’s Island Camp Castaway by Belinda Murrell.
- Help your child set some goals for camp – no matter how big or small.
- Focus on creating positive talk about the camp.
- Plan sleepovers with other children going on the same camp.
- Learn sing along songs and have a night around a camp fire.
- Create a journal / photo album / website / blog for your child to record their camp experience.
- Visit the camp in advance – this can easily be organised through the Camp Concierge.
- Create a countdown to camp check list.
GO THE EXTRA MILE
One of the hardest things for parents isn’t the preparation for camp – it’s when their child is actually there. This is the time when the brain can play havoc, visualising all sorts of scenarios.
No matter the length of camp, many parents feel a sense of loss: the home will seem empty and the normal buzzy routine disrupted. You can support parents with ideas on how to cope. Here are a few examples:
- No long goodbyes – the quicker the goodbye the less chance of stressful separation scenes.
- Plan ‘me’ time – have a massage, go to the movies, book a date night.
- Communicate with the camp if you wish, but try to refrain from overdoing it.
- Spend extra time with other siblings.
- Do something there’s never usually time for – sleep in, have that second cup of coffee, go to the gym.
- Meet up with friends who also have children on the same camp.
- Prepare a welcome home meal / activity.
- Reflect on your own camp experience and the benefits you gained.
- Remember camps are designed to help your child try new experiences and develop independence.
SHARE THE JOY
Camps take learning experiences way beyond the classroom walls and leave lasting memories. Sharing the highs (and lows) with the parents is a lovely way for them to gain further understanding of their child. Give feedback. What was each child’s biggest achievement / challenge/ best time? Think of follow up activities that can involve the parents such as:
- Writing a postcard from camp
- Presenting favourite activities and why
- Journal writing
- Blog / photo album
- Preparing a play / stage production / radio show
- Having a post camp party
Happy parents = happy campers.
Feel free to contact Molly, our Camp Concierge for more ideas and assistance. At Coffs Coast Adventure Centre we are dedicated to making school camps a learning and growing experience for everyone.