For almost 100 years, we’ve been guiding first time campers to find their place in the Chi community. We believe that it’s just as important to help first time parents with the adjustment to camp. This section has useful tips and suggestions for ensuring that your child has the best possible first-time camp experience.
Prior to camp, we will mail your child the Camp Chi Guide for New Campers, which covers everything from a typical day at camp to our camp lingo. This kid-friendly guide provides your camper with all of the information needed to be a pro on the first day of camp.
Homesickness among first time campers is very common regardless of their age or experience being away from home. Although the specific causes of homesickness differ from child to child, there are things you can do prior to your camper leaving to help prepare and prevent homesickness.
Make sure to talk about camp with your camper. These positive conversations help build excitement and anticipation. You can visit the Chi website together, watch Chi videos, go shopping for camp gear and label clothes together. Talk about all the great things they will be able to do at camp and about all the new friends they will make. Include a quick mention about homesickness.
Reassure your camper that missing home is normal. We suggest discussing strategies on how to cope with these feelings. Encourage your camper to talk with counselors or other staff if they feel sad or upset.
If your child is not used to spending the night away from home, make sure to schedule some sleepovers with friends or relatives prior to camp. These small experiences can make a big difference for kids while adjusting to camp life.
Studies have shown that family influence is a powerful factor in whether a child will be homesick. There are some important things to avoid saying. Do not tell your camper how much you’ll miss them (even though you will) and do not tell your camper that the house will be empty without them (even though it will). These statements cause children to feel guilty about being away and having fun while you are at home miserable without them.
Most importantly, DO NOT tell your camper that you will come to camp and take them home if they are not happy. Many parents tell their campers this with the best of intentions, but it causes huge problems while at camp. First, the statement sends the message to your campers that you don’t believe in their ability to succeed at camp. Secondly, it sets up unrealistic and low expectations about camp. These feelings often leave campers to take the easy way out if they are ever sad at camp instead of working through the issues and gaining independence.
Finally, make sure to avoid telling camp “horror stories.” What is funny to you or an older sibling about camp memories may scare your camper.
The easiest way to prevent homesickness is to give your camper the tools to handle the new situations they will be in. Our staff are trained to help your campers through any feelings of homesickness they may have, big or small. We use an approach to help campers identify emotions, manage their responses and stay engaged in activities. Ultimately, this helps campers gain self-confidence and independence. Please trust us. If we believe that your child’s homesickness or struggle to adjust is out of the ordinary, we will contact you to discuss strategies and options. Reach out to us and let us help. We can set up times to meet your camper and talk about all things we can put in place while at camp to help as needed.
Just as it is normal for your campers to miss you when they are away, it is very normal for you to miss them. Parents often experience feelings of anxiety and missing their children when they go away for the first time. There are several things parents can do to fill time when your campers are exploring new things at Camp Chi. For one, you should explore new things, too! Make plans to take advantage of child free opportunities: get away for a weekend, take a class you have been trying to fit in, have some quiet time and read a book, go to the movies, visit an art fair or tackle a project you have been putting off for a while. Staying busy is an important part of not missing your camper. While we realize that you will think about your camper and miss him or her, by doing new things, you each will have a lot of new stories to share when they come home.
We also suggest visiting CampInTouch to see photos and news items that are posted daily. We hope that these pictures, newsletters, and your child’s letters will give you a good idea of what your child is doing. Of course, if you need immediate contact with someone, you can call camp and speak to your child’s village leader or a camp director.
We encourage all parents to come to an agreement with their child about how many letters you will write and how many letters he or she must write. No matter how much you may want it, it is not realistic to expect that your camper will write every day. We expect that campers write home two times each week.
Writing to your camper and connecting with them is part of the camp experience, so write often. Also, your kids are looking forward to hearing from you. For parents, camp may seem like a short distance from home, but for kids, camp may as well be to the moon and back. They like having the connection with home life.
What should your letters say? There are very effective ways to let your camper know what you are doing, while still being encouraging and supportive of their time at camp. A good letter from home is one that is upbeat and cheerful. Your letters should include an encouraging hello as well as providing a positive report from home that describes general, routine things that are happening around you (i.e. trips to the grocery store, washing the car, getting your hair cut, etc.).
We suggest including questions that encourage your camper to write back, as well as a reassurance that you will write again soon. Also, feel free to include fun printouts, magazine clippings or items that can fit in an envelope to make your letter more interesting. You can also send photos of your family to your camper if they want that.
Avoid mentioning that you are miserable without your camper or any sad news. It is okay to say that you miss your camper, but it’s important to not make the camper feel guilty that he or she is having such a good time. It is best to save bad news until you can talk to your camper face to face. Unfortunately, there are situations in which it is necessary for your camper to be aware of an issue immediately. In these cases, we expect that you will call camp and relay that information to us. We will decide together the best way to handle the situation while at camp.
For first time campers, we suggest that parents send or email letters before their child leaves for camp. Sending letters prior to departure ensures that campers have mail waiting for them when they first arrive. This helps put many kids at ease in their new environment.
Every parent dreads the classic, “I am homesick, come get me” letter. We understand the helplessness that parents feel when they receive a letter like this. In coping with these feelings, please keep a few things in mind. First, remember that the letter you received was likely written 4-5 days ago. In most cases, by the time you receive these letters, your camper is having a great time and has forgotten that they were ever homesick or upset. Also, our experience tells us that campers are more likely to complain to their parents than to anyone else. Your campers are going to feel most comfortable sharing their everyday frustrations with you. Although the complaints in these letters may sound monumental, it is likely that your child is just venting and is off to play again within minutes of sealing the envelope.
In all of these cases we ask you to consider the “two letter rule.” As we said before, if you get a letter with an issue in it, remember that your camper sent that letter days ago and that the issue is already resolved. If you get two letters expressing a concern, please call camp. Not only will this put your mind at ease, but if your camper is not expressing the problem to anyone else, your phone call will help us to provide the best care for your child and address the issue immediately.
If you have been receiving happy letters all summer and all of the sudden you receive one that isn’t sad, but just doesn’t sound quite right, by all means we encourage you to call camp. We are here to be your partner in caring for your child while they are at camp. We commit to returning your call within 24 hours of receiving it. Please remember that we are out in camp so we may not be accessible all of the time, but you will be hearing from a Camp Chi representative within 24 hours of leaving a message.
We urge parents to get their children involved in packing for camp. Doing this together helps prepare the camper and also ensures that the child knows what he or she is bringing to camp. Parents are also able to oversee and make sure that campers are not bringing any items that should not be at camp.
Remember that your camper’s belongings will be kept on shelves in the cabin. Many campers find it helpful to have small items, like underwear or socks, packed in large plastic storage bags that can be placed on shelves.
We regularly ask experienced camp parents for their advice on how to pack their kids for camp. They have shared many ways to ease the process and help with campers’ adjustment. Here’s a few tips:
- Many parents send their campers to camp with pre-addressed and pre-stamped envelopes. This makes it easy for campers to remember who to write and takes the guess work out of writing to all family and friends.
- Campers like to have autograph things with them at camp, including pillow cases, plush dolls or books. These items are available at the Chi Canteen and serve as memorabilia on the last days of camp.
- Camp is all about fun and being goofy. Instead of sending your camper to camp with the same eight white shirts, send them with all colors of shirts. There will be times when campers are put into teams and identified by color or they may have a color themed day.
- Send your camper with at least two pairs of sandals. Sandals that are used to wear during their nightly shower may still be damp in the morning. There is nothing worse than waking up and putting on wet sandals. The second pair can be worn during the day. Shower sandals can even be sandals that you are going to get rid of anyway and be thrown away at the end of the summer.
- Speaking of showers, make sure that your child has some sort of “shower caddy” or “shower bucket” to carry their toiletries from the cabin to the bathhouse.
- Pre-packing Shabbat outfits for younger campers has been found to be quite helpful. Your camper may find dressing for Shabbat a bit daunting should they not normally dress themselves for “fancier” occasions at home. By pre-packing Shabbat outfits, this will make the process fool proof for your camper. For Shabbat, nicer shorts, capri pants, collared shirts, casual skirts or sundresses are sufficient.
- Label everything. It is easy to misplace things at camp, having all items labeled with your child’s full name will allow us to get everything returned.
- Try packing your camper with bins or packing cubes. This helps them stay organized at camp.