WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER CAMP
Your child, as a camper, has had an active, stimulating, and emotional experience at Camp Mariposa or Camp Erin. During the 3-days, your camper has most likely shared their personal story, listened to other campers, laughed, cried, played, created strong bonds with mentors and friends, and learned a great deal about themselves. They have also had a lot of fun with activities including sports, boating, swimming, dancing, music, crafts, journaling, pet therapy, yoga and more.
They have learned skills on how to cope with their emotions and how to seek help, and how to recognize the strength and courage that is within them.
We have compiled this document to help parents, guardians, family and friends feel comfortable reconnecting with their camper after this life-changing experience.
The following ideas are suggestions and we sincerely hope that they help you support your child after camp.
THE RIDE HOME
- Avoid “the Pounce”! It is normal as a caring adult to want to know as much as about your camper’s experience as possible. Provide them time to process their experience and share it with you slowly, on their own time.
- Your camper has been away from their usual routine. They’re tired and may not want to talk right away. It’s also possible that they might talk the whole way home. All of this is okay.
- Don’t take it personally if they are a bit cranky. Take into account that your camper is likely tired and hungry after camp. They also may feel sad after leaving the new friends they have made.
- Your camper has already talked about so many hard things. They may be overwhelmed are not ready to relive it on the car ride home, and that’s okay.
- They are not pushing you away. They need the time to think about all that they have experienced. They may want a little down time to process the experience.
- You may want to say something like: “I would love to hear about camp whenever you are ready to talk.” This opens the communication door for when they are ready to share.
- Campers may be more talkative than usual, full of new questions and may want to be more open about their experience, or ask for more explanation or details.
Listening is important. Listen with your heart. Listen without judgement or punishment. Don’t worry about what to say—concentrate on the words they share with you. You may listen to the same story over and over—listen attentively each time! Be compassionate, patient and present.
Be reassured that campers have shown so much resiliency over the weekend, and that even if the first conversations go differently than planned, there is plenty of time and opportunities for more discussions and to remain open to hearing more at a later time.
If you do ask questions, try counting to 15 before expecting a response. Sometimes kids need quiet to offer a response. Sit quietly with them. Ask specific questions, such as:
- What were your three highlights about camp?
- Did you try anything for the first time?
- How did it feel to share your story?
- Tell me more about the luminary ceremony (Camp Erin), or Did you burn your letter to addiction in the campfire? (Camp Mariposa).
- Did anyone make you laugh?
- I heard there were water activities, what was the most fun for you?
- Was there something at camp that was really hard for you?
- What was the high and low of your experience?
- If I were a fly on the wall in your cabin, what would I have seen?
- (this approach may encourage description, rather than yes and no responses)
- Did you meet any good friends at camp and how might you keep in touch with them?
CONTINUED CARE FOR THE JOURNEY
- Your camper will continue to experience and express a wide range of feelings and emotions. Let them know that all feelings are okay.
- Help them be gentle with themselves.
- Every single person has a unique response to adversity: some people need a good cry, some people don’t.
- Continue to seek additional support services in your area for your camper and your family.
- Feel free to maintain an open line of communication with the Camp Director. Check in a week after camp if you have any questions or just want to talk.
- Be proactive in keeping connections going between your camper and friends made at camp. Keep in mind that the contact with big buddies/mentors and other camp volunteers is limited to the camp experience, and that hopefully they see them at a reunion or another camp activity.
Continue your exploration of The Moyer Foundation’s Resource Center for support referrals, activities to encourage feeling-expression, and cope with stress.