Partnering with Parents: How to talk to your children about today’s challenges

March 13, 2020

Dear Manitou parents and friends:

By now we hope you’ve had a chance to read our initial e-mail update that was sent out Monday. We continue to be privy to the most current information as the Ontario Camp Association COVID-19 task force includes Manitou’s co-owner Mark Diamond.   

We thought we would take a few moments and share with you some thoughts as we are all going into Spring Break when most likely you will be spending more time than usual with your children.  The medical experts have made it clear that major disruptions to our lives will occur over the next six weeks. We are in a new paradigm in terms of how we function and respond as human beings over the next few months.

We’ve just seen the current disruption in professional sports, and the recently announced school closures. There will be an enormous brief economic disruption. People will need to work from home. Health care will be absolutely overwhelmed. Unofficial or official quarantines will most likely occur.

The best thing you can do right now is be a role model for your children. It’s important to share with them some straight talk about COVID-19, letting them know it’s concerning without scaring them. Right now, the health risk from coronavirus is very low for you and your children. You should help them understand this.

Most experts feel children have little risk, even though they may be carriers.  If your children ask you about COVID-19, be honest but don’t give out  more information than they are actually looking for.   Use this as an opportunity to teach proper hygiene.  Each summer we teach the kids at flagpole how to wash their hands properly; review this with them and emphasize that this is not just for now, but good practice for always.

Our greatest wish is that you use this as an opportunity to teach them a life lesson about not being fearful or reactionary. Let them learn not only health hygiene, but also compassion. Let’s all try our best together as one community to humanize this situation.   Be calm and patient, yet assertive. Teach them about how and why we make personal choices and sacrifices, such as postponing a vacation; this in turn helps others by reducing the chances of spreading illness to the frail and elderly.  

If you are stocking up on groceries as a result of a self-quarantine, take the opportunity to talk to your kids about the challenges faced by people in need who may have nobody to assist them, and turn it into a teachable moment by donating non-perishables to a local food bank.  Maybe the money you save on travel, for example, can be donated to a cause to help a senior’s home.   

We all need distraction now. When we fixate on dangers, anxiety grows, and when we turn our attention elsewhere, it shrinks. That said, it might be hard for some teenagers not to obsess about COVID-19 given that the topic pervades headlines and social media. Try asking your teenager to consider scaling back on how often they check their phones for information updates (“social media distancing”), and to ask them to trust that we’ll share any significant news should it arrive.  Similarly, we might encourage finding distractions, such as doing their homework or watching a favorite show, while shielding themselves from digital intrusions.

A new TV show or book could be the best recipe now for your children!  Take advantage of any family time you have at home as a result of these times.   Good old- fashioned board games, learning a new game as a family, going for a walk, or having a good old fashioned pajama party are your best recipes to normalcy.

Finally, we are sure you are all wondering whether summer camping will be impacted by COVID-19. We know that most kids are already counting down the days until camp, and can’t wait for summer’s arrival!  Rest assured that our number one priority is the health and safety of your kids.  A close second is giving our campers the summer of a lifetime. Know that we are working tirelessly to achieve both of these goals for summer 2020! 

We will continually update you on the situation as it unfolds with respect to camp and wish you a healthy Spring Break.


Mark, Jeff, Jen, Alec and Melissa

Partnering with Parents: Instagram & Social Media Safety

Dear Manitou Parents,

Manitou has always taken great pride in partnering with our parents and the entire Manitou community. We hold many Manitou Cares events at camp and in the city, bringing in guest speakers to discuss pressing issues surrounding our youth.  A few years ago, a renowned physician from the US joined us to talk about the concerns and risks of social media and how to place appropriate controls on your children at a young age.

“TECH FREE ZONE- the best connection is right here.” This reminder, posted all over camp and on every cabin, was the theme of Summer 2018 at Manitou. Most of our campers will admit that they love being able to check out of the instant communication world and talk in real time. It lowers their stress levels and allows them to be engaged in the world around them. That’s one of the many things that makes camp so great!

Though social media has, undoubtedly, become a large part of our world, cyberbullying is a very real problem. Instagram in particular, one of the most popular platforms, has a significant flaw: users can set up accounts at any age without verification of identity. Imagine how easy it is to set up a fraudulent account using someone else’s name and photo and send out messages under this assumed identity? It is important to know that Instagram has no legal obligation to investigate fraudulent accounts to see who created them, leaving users without any recourse.  This form of identity theft or slander can also occur by hacking into another user’s account. In fact, we know of a few cases where someone else assumed a Manitou camper’s identity without permission. We urge you to continue educating your kids about digital awareness. Make sure they know to be aware of concerning content on their Instagram feed, understand that it may not be from the person they think it is, and know that its always important to question anything they see that doesn’t seem right. Please encourage them to come to you if they receive alarming or negative messaging, even if they are embarrassed to talk about it.

It is easy to forget that online actions have real world repercussions, especially for a child. When kids have multiple Instagram accounts, not only are they likely spending too much time on social media, they may also be representing different versions of themselves to a wide audience, unaware of the potential negative impact this could have.

Kindly take a few minutes to read the article below. It’s a rapidly changing world and while you may be aware of what your kids are doing on social media, it can be tough to keep up. We encourage you to keep the dialogue open about the risks surrounding social media and don’t be reluctant to let your child know that placing limits on their technology use is healthy.  After all, that time away from social media is one of the reasons why camp is so great, let’s remind them of this and work together to make social media a positive space for everyone.


Showing empathy to your child

Renee Jain explains what we can do as parents to empathize and relate to our children, how we can see issues through their eyes and help relate to daily questions.

I wish I could go back in time and teach the younger version of myself how to cope, but of course, that’s not possible. What is possible is to try to reach as many kids and parents as possible with these coping skills. What is possible is to teach kids how to go beyond just surviving to really finding meaning, purpose and happiness in their lives.

Read more here