By: Ashley Costello
As Tawonga’s Director of Community Engagement, one of my favorite parts of my job is helping families prepare their children for Camp. If you are reading this, chances are that you and your child are about to embark on a truly transformative experience, and I’m so excited to help welcome your family to Tawonga. With that in mind, here are some top tips I’ve pulled together for parents to help first-time or just plain nervous campers prepare for Camp.
You’re going to make a friend within the first 24 hours of Camp, and your counselors are there to help you.
- Tawonga has hired warm and loving staff to take care of your children. All counselors are at least 18 and have prior childcare experience, and most have at least one year of college under their belt. Our counselors go through an intensive training which prepares them well to handle any situation that might arise. Every counselor is looking out for the well-being of every single child, which includes making sure everyone is making friends.
I want you to have so much fun at Camp, and I know you are going to love it!
- Positive encouragement from a parent is key to a child’s success.
- Kids are very perceptive and can easily pick up on their parents’ concerns and anxiety. If your child is worried that their absence from home is going to be difficult for you, it will be much harder for them to enjoy Camp because they will be concerned about you.
- Kids also emulate how their parents feel. If they are getting positive vibes from you about Camp, they will feel positively about their session.
It’s okay to miss me, and know that I am going to miss you too – but you’re still going to have fun at Camp, even though you might miss home sometimes.
- It will help your child to know that missing each other is natural, and explaining this will help validate their feelings and reassure them.
2) It’s Better Not to Say…
Don’t worry – you can call me any time.
- We have found that phone communication between campers and family members often prolongs homesickness. Also, kids who make it through their session without speaking with parents at home truly feel an amazing accomplishment which helps fulfill a key tenet of the Tawonga Mission to build confidence.
Just try it for a week (or a few days), and if it doesn’t work out, I will come and get you.
- The best way to set kids up for success is to let them know they will be staying at Camp for their full session at Camp, and that they are going to do great! If a child goes in with the attitude of, “If I don’t like it, my parents will pick me up,” then they are much less likely to give it a full try.
You need to go to Camp because I/we need a vacation.
- This reason misses the point that Camp will be a fun, growing and positive experience for your child.
3) Walk Them Through What to Expect
Contextualize the length of a session.
- All Tawonga sessions begin on a Sunday, so on a Sunday at home, share with your child that this would be the first day of Camp. Then check in with them periodically throughout the week(s) until you have reached the same amount of time of your child’s session to help contextualize how long six days (or two or three weeks) feels.
- Get your child comfortable with sleeping in a sleeping bag (or other Camp bedding) for a night or two before their session. This can be a fun one to try!
Review what a day at Camp will feel like.
- Together, read through our blog post, “A Day in the Life” to see what a day at Camp looks like to get familiar with Tawonga’s schedule and activities. Our activities include swimming at the river, tie-dye at arts & crafts, sports and making food in the garden..
4) Practice Skills They Will Use at Camp
- Encourage your child to practice making a sandwich by themselves and taking a shower too.
- When it’s time to get ready for bed, imagine they are at Camp! Have them brush their teeth, wash their face and put on their pajamas without help from a grown-up.
- Pack for Camp with your child. Let them know where everything in their suitcase or duffel bag is placed. You might think it’s intuitive to put socks and underwear in the side pocket of their duffel bag, but your child might not know that pocket even exists!
- Have your child join a sleepover at the home of a friend or relative to get more comfortable with sleeping away from home..
- New Family Orientations give children an opportunity to meet other kids from their session, play get-to-know-you games and get all their questions answered by our fun Camp staff while parents meet with a director. It’s a great way to get your child excited about and familiar with Tawonga. If you have not yet RSVP’d for an orientation, click here.
- About a month before your child’s session, we will email you a roster of other kids in your child’s session. This is a great time to reach out to other children in your area to set up some play dates so your child sees some familiar faces at the bus stop. When we send you a roster, we will also be inviting you to a Facebook group specific to your child’s session. This is also a great way to connect with the parents of kids in your child’s session to set up get-togethers and ask questions parent-to-parent.
There you have it! I hope these tips are useful for you. If your child is feeling nervous or apprehensive about going to Camp, feel free to call us at 415.543.2267. We’re happy to help brainstorm ways to prepare your child for Tawonga.
P.S. Also, be sure to see these “Nine pro-tips to pack your child for Tawonga” from Camp mom and part-time Summer Assistant Director, Jessica Colvin.
Ashley Costello is Tawonga’s Director of Community Engagement, directing the San Francisco office during the summer and ensuring our families are well taken care of. As parent liaison, it is Ashley’s goal to provide the best possible communication and support to Tawonga parents
If you have any questions during your child’s stay at Camp, you can always call the Camp office in San Francisco at 415.543.2267. Our office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and our staff members check messages periodically over the weekends in the summer. You can also email [email protected].