“This is not Camp!” How Parents Can Be More Welcoming
If your child is returning home from overnight camp, expect that your laundry room will be filled with the dirtiest, grimiest piles of clothing you’ve ever seen since—well, never. Is it a surprise that you’re contemplating just chucking the whole lot and starting over for the coming school year? After all, do you really want to put the items with stained evidence of sleep-outs, mud slides, s’mores and who-knows-what else into your nice, shiny, clean washing machine? Though it is a formidable machine (which in some cases ought to pay rent for the space it takes up in your home) clearly intended to do the job of cleaning all manner of dirty clothing, you just don’t believe these clothes will ever be clean, no matter what the ads say.
Maybe you’ve decided years ago that the only way to deal with this mess is to shlep the whole lot to a laundromat, spending hours there as an active participant in the tedious decontamination process, so as not to sully your washing machine. Or maybe you’ve decided to feel like a queen for a day (and who could fault you for this, would that person want to do the laundry?) and indulge in the laundromat’s service to conveniently wash, dry, and fold those items into straight-edged piles which they then place in sanitary over-sized plastic bags so they’ll look presentable again? (and you might ask how would I know all the details about this? shhhh…)
No matter what route you take, after you deal with the clothing, you’ll need to deal with the camper.
Coming back home for your child will be part of a transition toward (sounding quite social-worky, pop psychologist here), integration into life at home. It will happen slowly for most.
So, how can you help your child move from camper [“we did it this way at camp”, “things were better at camp”, “I was on my own at camp”, “I can’t wait to go back to camp” (not necessarily a bad thing), and possibly the worst thing to hear: “being home sucks!”] to home dweller?
Here are some tips to consider:
1. Adjust your thinking and expectations. Though only a few weeks have passed for you, camp has already, in that relatively short amount of time, contributed to a life changing experience for her (or him. I’ll switch off from here on…).
2. Get involved in his experience by asking him to talk about it….but not at first. Give your child some much needed personal space and some time. Take cues from him about when to broach the subject. Wait for him to open up the conversation. Ask questions with some depth, beyond the typical: “Did you have fun?” How about instead: “What’s one neat thing you learned this summer?” “Tell me about an interaction you had with your counselor/friend/staff member that was important to you”, “What activity did you look forward to the least, or wish you could be excused from?”
3. Depending on the age of your child, be ready for heavy social media use, especially in the weeks after camp. The camp might have a presence on several platforms, and it’s in the best interest of the camp to engage their campers after the summer’s end.
4. Beyond the virtual, go out of your way to drive your child to camp friends’ houses for special celebrations, hang-outs, reunions. It’s important that her network remains her own, because it just might give her a reprieve from school friends who are not behaving in the kindest ways, or if they are, she suddenly may find that they’re “shallow” and “not all that interesting” compared to her friends at camp.
5. Overnight camp is an exhilarating time for teenagers. For most, living with others 24/7 gives them many opportunities to see their strengths and weaknesses in ways they hadn’t before. The camp environment usually stresses peer leadership, something that might be rare on home turf but occurs regularly at camp. It would help for you to think of ways to step up leadership opportunities at home as well, to build upon what he learned at camp, and provide coping skills for more time away when he leaves home.
And depending on your laundry skills, you may wish for that sooner rather than later.