I am a summer camp kid. Camp Heritage was my second home as a young Pathfinder and summer camper growing up in Missouri.
I remember the waterslide, the end of the waterslide, the rock climbing wall going up, the pavilion with no walls, and even carpet-less, airconditioner-less cabins!
I waited over a decade to send my kids to this magical, wondrous wilderness called summer camp, and yet, when it was time for them to go…I hated every second.
Whether you live in Iowa-Missouri Conference or another, your conference probably has a fantastic summer camp, like Camp Heritage–and if you aren’t planning to send your children to camp this year, here are some tips to help you send your kids to camp when you do.
Prepare the Kids (and Yourself)
- Talk, Talk, Talk
Talk to your kids about camp, your own experience, and your expectations for them. Let them talk to you also, and ask you questions.
- Read All Information
Ensure you read everything the camp administration sends to read–all emails, FAQs, and parent packs so that you can prepare your kid (and yourself).
- Plan Ahead
Most summer camps offer opportunities to communicate with your camper during the week, plan on taking time to communicate however they allow. This might include teaching your camper how to write, address, and mail a letter or postcard. It may be a fun experience to get snail mail from your camper while you’re missing them. Also, prepare for the trip, the drive there, the things your camper will need to pack while there, and the ride home. Look at the packing list way before camp week!
- Pack Together
After reading all the information, choosing activities, and registering, pack them together. Pack things you know your kids love and will enjoy. Pack all the things your kids will need. Pack paper and pencil, coloring books (most camps have downtime every day), stamps and envelopes (if you expect mail), snacks, and all the camping essentials (including bug spray and sunscreen!).
Once the bags are packed, forms are signed, heads are checked for lice, and you’re hugging good-bye, you may feel more heartache than you expect. Put on a brave face and grit your teeth you still have several days to go.
Be Gentle with Your Heart (and Theirs)
- Plan Time for Yourself
When I dropped my kids off at camp for the first time, I was borderline unbearable to everyone around me. I can only describe it as a sort of grief. I have never experienced taking my kids to school for the first time. I’ve never had someone besides my close family care for my kids, so this day was tough! I was forced to take time for myself because I couldn’t be around anyone. In hindsight, I would have planned for alone time after I dropped the kids at camp.
- Communicate With Your Kids
Campers love getting mail. It’s special and surprising and keeps them connected to the home. Our camp allows parents to email campers. The emails are printed for the kids each morning, so they receive them at lunch. We can also mail packages to the kids, but this has to be planned and done early so they get their package while they’re at camp. It’s also nice to get to know some of the staff at camp so you can have updates 😉
- Do Something Special for Them (while they’re gone)
While my kids were away at camp, I cleaned their bedrooms from top to bottom. I organized the chaos that had overwhelmed them for months and showed their possessions kindness (not throwing away any of their treasures). When I picked them up, I told them I cleaned for them so they wouldn’t be surprised and upset, and when they got home, they were pleased with their rooms, and I still get “thanks for cleaning my room” days later.
- Follow the Summer Camp on Social Media and Check the Online Portal Daily
Our summer camp posted pictures regularly, and I could usually glimpse one of our campers with each uploaded batch of photos. Even when my kids weren’t visible, I felt connected by looking through the pictures and looking for my kiddos. Befriending camp staff and following them is also a great way to learn what’s going on, even if there are no photos of your camper.
A Prayer for the Parents
Father in Heaven,
We praise and thank You for our summer camps and each staff member working there this summer. God, You are blessing hearts there even before our children arrive. You bless hearts and prepare the way for our children to get to know You before we even make the drive. You know us, Lord. You know the depths of our hearts and our wildest dreams. As we prepare to send our beloved to camp, You know our deepest worries as well as our earnest hope. You know their fears, Father, as they are Yours first. Please give us the words to comfort them when they are afraid, and be with us as well, as we may also need comfort as we say goodbye.
Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness in all things, the gift of parenthood, and the ministry of family. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, God. Fill our hearts, homes, and even summer camp with Your Spirit so that when we interact with others, we do so as one in Your Holiness. We pray, ask, and believe in You and Your Son’s name.