Chapter 8: Maximize your child’s enjoyment
Getting a letter means a lot to your child(ren). Even before they get to camp, write in advance so letters are there in the first few days. Mail service is slow both to and from camp. Letters can take up to 10 days to arrive.
Don’t get carried away! Parents who send letters every day can sometimes, although well intentioned, make a child homesick. We have had some campers that have received a letter every day, some even three letters a day and often those kids tend to be more homesick from so much mail. Although campers need to hear from their parents, please understand that many campers do better with mail 2-3 times a week rather then letters each day.
UNDERSTANDING LETTERS HOME
If your child sounds distressed in a letter, do not be overly concerned. Remember that the letter was written about a week beforehand. Campers’ letters home are usually a “snapshot” of their feelings at that particular moment. We know that when kids feel upset, they’ll use a letter to express their frustration. These moments are most common in their first few days of camp. It is probable that an hour after writing it, they’re up, onto something new and back to being themselves. We are aware of the kids’ emotional swings, but we can use any information we get. If upsetting letters become a trend, let us know. EACH YEAR WE RECEIVE PARENTS PHONING US IN A PANIC ABOUT A BAD LETTER AND IN ALMOST ALL CASES, 99 out of 100, the child is having a great time but used the letter to get out his frustrations at that moment. Also many times it takes awhile for a camper to adjust. There is much truth to the famous song “Hello Muddah”:
Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh
(A Letter From Camp)
Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh,
Here I am at Camp Granada.
Camp is very entertaining,
And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining.
I went hiking with Joe Spivey.
He developed poison ivy.
You remember Leonard Skinner.
He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner.
All the counselors hate the waiters,
And the lake has alligators.
And the head coach wants no sissies,
So he reads to us from something called Ulysses.
Now I don’t want this should scare ya,
But my bunk mate has malaria.
You remember Jeffrey Hardy.
They’re about to organize a searching party.
Take me home, oh Muddah, Fadduh,
Take me home, I hate Granada,
Don’t leave me out here in the forest, where
I might get eaten by a bear.
Take me home, I promise I will not make noise,
Or mess the house with other boys.
Oh please don’t make me stay,
I’ve been here one whole day.
Dearest Fadduh, darling Muddah,
How’s my precious little Bruddah?
Let me come home if you miss me.
I would even let Aunt Bertha hug and kiss me.
Wait a minute, it stopped hailing.
Guys are swimming, guys are sailing.
Playing baseball, gee that’s better.
Muddah, Fadduh, kindly disregard this letter!
Homesickness is normal. In fact, it is developmentally appropriate. This is basically the first thing we tell a child who is missing home. They need to know that what they may be feeling is not abnormal or unusual. And it does not strike exclusively around any particular age, although it is more prevalent among the youngest campers for whom this is the first time away from home. We do know that in the vast majority of cases, any homesickness is over quickly.
When dealing with homesickness, we give one-on-one attention, and the staff involved may be anyone from the counsellors to the camp directors. Our goal is to keep the children busy – at first doing the things most familiar and enjoyable to them. We are also wary of the point when too much personalized attention by a staff becomes used as a crutch instead of help. At that point, the emphasis will turn to getting them to be fully attentive and involved in their activity of the moment. Another tactic is to give the child a role in a game, project, show, or even a harmless prank (like throwing a director in the water), which enhances their self-esteem, and importance in the cabin group. Usually homesickness subsides after a day or two, because the pace of camp life is so busy and distracting from thoughts about home. The good news is… like all things, time heals homesickness too.
Usually the letters sound worse then the reality at camp. Nevertheless, we encourage you to call us if you sense discouraging trends in your child’s letters home. We welcome you sharing signs of unhappiness with us. It helps us get to the bottom of any real problems. Rest assured that attentive caring adults are caring for your child. More information on how we handle homesickness is available at www.manitoucamp.com