Hey, Camp Parents!
Last Monday began our four-part series to share tips and advice on correspondence with your camper during their camp stay. To review, I broke down the four different options of communication, the first—and best—of the options being a handwritten letter, followed by email, phone calls, and care packages.
Borrowing great tips from Chris Thurber and Jon Malinowski’s ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’, today’s post focuses in on the first option: a handwritten letter.
Keep your letters newsy, upbeat, and encouraging. Try to save mildly bad news until you can talk to your child in person (we’ll cover how to break major bad news to your child in a couple weeks for our post on phone calls). Of course, you can tell your kid that you miss them, but don’t make it sound like life at home is so depressing without them around—that would be mildly bad news.
Bringing up mildly bad news is just introducing things that your kid can’t do anything about. No matter how big or how small, bad news makes campers feel helpless. And helplessness is a road that leads to darker places like homesickness, anxiety, and depression.
Write about positive news from home like the family dog having a fun trip to the dog park or how you’re catching up on your reading. Mention when you’ll write again and include lots of questions to invite a response—though you’re likely not to get one because too much fun is being had.
It’s always nice to include other bits of interest to your kid. I remember my parents sending me the comics page from the newspaper my first time at camp. You could also send photos, drawings, or anything else you can fit in an envelope that your camper will appreciate.
What if your kid DOES write you from camp and the letter is a concentrated mess of homesick words and pleas for you to go get them. Don’t overreact—things are most likely fine and the letter was simply written in a bad mindset. A lot is sure to happen at camp in between the letter being written and you reading it.
The right move is to call the camp and talk to a counselor who can update you on how your kid is doing. Chances are that the homesick feelings are gone.
In very extreme and rare cases, your camper might require more attention, one-on-one supervision, or potentially even an early pick-up. Keep in mind that it almost never gets to that point. Calling the camp is a good move, but you should certainly address your campers homesickness in another letter that you write back. Write back as soon as you can.
Make it from the heart, but, once again, be newsy, upbeat, and encouraging. Convey that you understand how they feel in your letter. Typically, the moment your child knows that you truly understand how upset they are is typically when they start to feel better. You can check out an old Blog post from Chris Thurber himself about writing to your kid during their summer camp stay!
Tune in next Monday to learn about communicating with your camper by email and, as always, thanks for reading.