When children go to camp, there is a strong likelihood that they'll come home gushing about the lifelong friends they've made, the excitement of learning to swim or ride a horse, their favorite new hobbies, and the anticipation of returning to camp next summer.
What they probably won't tell you about are the more subtle life lessons camp has given them: those skills that, if nurtured at home after camp, translate into a lasting self-confidence, an awareness of the importance of kindness, a greater comfort in voicing their opinions, and even a willingness to do household chores with a smile!
Here are some tips to help families keep the spirit - and lessons - of camp alive long after the campfire embers cool:
- Remember to Remind. When campers come home, they often keep the spirit of camp alive for a week or two, and then things trail off. Use positive reinforcement to remind campers that you appreciate the positive attitude and willingness to help that they developed at camp.
- Become Camp-Like. Families can set the example by demonstrating a willingness to change something at home in order to sustain some of the changes campers have made. Bob Ditter, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, suggests: "Parents have to make a decision. Are they willing to change something in their practice at home in order to sustain some of the changes their kids have made, such as having a job wheel that you put up on the wall outlining chores?"
- Everyone Gets a Say. At camp, children help determine how their day is spent. Their advice is actively sought, and they feel like equal players. Emulating this environment at home allows them to continue to stand up for themselves and feel like a contributing member of the household.
- Avoid the Negative Compliment. Don't inadvertently sabotage efforts by pointing out differences in behavior. Instead of saying, "you never did this before," praise the behaviors in a genuine way. For example, "I noticed how patient you were with your little brother."
Adapted from "Make the Benefits of Camp Last All Year - Positive Influence Can Mean Ongoing Success," originally published in the September 2010 issue of Camp e-News from the American Camp Association.