For almost 60 years, Valaqua has been welcoming kids to our little corner of creation to grow in all sorts of directions. Kids who spend the week with us grow in self-confidence, faith, and in community with one another. We don’t do it alone though, and here are some tips and suggestions to help your child have a great week at summer camp.
First Time Considerations
The decision about when to send your child to camp for the first time is a challenging one. Some kids are emotionally ready at 7 and others need to wait until they are nine or ten. Take a bit of time and evaluate the emotional maturity of your child prior to registering them for camp. Valaqua has age breakdowns for each of our camps, however, we know that as a parent, you know your child best and you are the best judge of when they are ready and are willing to flex our age guidelines to best accommodate your child.
Prior to Camp
Throughout the year prior to camp, it’s important to encourage your child’s independence as much as possible. Give them opportunity to experience some separations from you, such as sleeping at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, having a sleepover at a friend’s. Discuss what camp will be like when they are there, and what they’ll need to do on their own –changing clothes every day, taking showers, etc. Help them understand that they’ll be sharing sleeping quarters and bathroom facilities with up to 5 other boys or girls, which is a little different than what they are used to at home.
Once you have registered your child for camp, and been accepted for your preferred week(s), go through the checklist of “What to Pack for Camp”. As you’re packing for camp, involve your child so they are familiar with the items you’re placing in their suitcases. The more involved they are, with the process of getting ready for camp, the more likely they will feel at ease when they arrive.
Many campers experience homesickness. It’s a very normal thing, and in most cases, the child gets over it in a very short period of time. But, there is a lot that you (as parents) can do to help your child avoid homesickness, or give them the ability to quickly cope with it if it does happen at camp.
The first thing to consider is how you are going to deal with “childsickness” while they’re away. Sending your child to camp may be the first time you’re without them for a week. But, this is one of many steps that your child will take toward full independence later in life. If you are experiencing some nerves about sending your child to camp, avoid expressing your anxiety to them. It’s okay to say “I’m going to miss you, but I know you’ll have a great time”, but probably not a good idea to let them think you’ll be miserable without them.
If they express their concern to you about being homesick, acknowledge that it’s okay to miss home and family while they’re at camp, but continually encourage them that you know they’ll be fine. One thing that should be avoided where possible is “making a deal” with your child. Telling your child that if they don’t like it you’ll come and pick them up sets your child up for failure and deprives them of a great opportunity to grow in independence.
When you arrive at camp, you will be checking in with the Camp Directors and you will meet your child’s counsellors. Help them get set-up in their cabin and take a walk around camp with them (strongly encouraged if it’s your first time) so you and they become comfortable with the surroundings. Once they’re settled, our recommendation is that you don’t linger around camp too long. Staying too long just delays the transition to being at camp. Don’t worry – we’ve been taking care of kids for more than 55 years at Valaqua, and we will keep them safe!
Keeping in Touch
While your child is at Valaqua it is difficult to maintain direct communication. Camp is a busy week and the campers are on the go for most of the day. If you need to talk to your child, call the camp office and we will make arrangements. If you are worried about how your child is doing, give us a call and we can check in with their counsellor, have a chat with them about how the week is going, and give you an update.
Calling home is a tricky one as for many kids the call to mom and dad triggers or worsens homesickness by reminding them that they miss you and love you. We use our discretion with phone calls home, but do not “bar the door.” If your child needs to talk to you, we will make sure they have the chance, but first we will encourage them to engage in everything we can offer at Valaqua and will try to help them focus on the fun that they are having here and now.
A Final Note
Valaqua has been helping kids Discover God in Creation for almost three generations and our return rate is very high. The majority of our staff grow out of our leadership programs and our leadership programs are populated with our campers. This means that we know our staff well before we hire them.
Our goal is to make sure that your child has a fun, safe week that is full of personal, spiritual, and relational growth. The suggestions above help your child to be prepared and help us accomplish our goal of giving your child a great week at camp!