Summer Camp - Managing Separation Anxiety
In making the decision to go to sleepaway camp, parents often consider: does the camp provide a safe and nurturing environment, what is the camper to staff ratio (ours is 3:1), and does the camp know how to help my child grow and thrive. A camp’s size can also make a difference. Our relatively small size, roughly 200 campers, where seniors and juniors know and enjoy each other, affords a more personal, familial environment and experience. And yet it is large and diverse enough to offer over 25 activity choices as well as be rich in spirit and unique in experience.
For parents of first-time campers, separation anxiety is often of concern, although returning campers and teenagers can sometimes feel homesick too. Hiring staff, including nurses, attuned not only to the physical needs of our campers but also to their emotional needs is critical. In addition, structured activity time where kids are learning new skills – whether how to do their roll in kayaking or how to climb the rock wall - keeps them busy and having fun. Downtime is important too because kids need time just to chill and unwind. Not surprisingly, one of the most difficult times where kids often experience homesickness is at bedtime.
At Adirondack, we try to have special activities around bedtime such as Blue-White color war, camp dances, or Awiskini (where we pay homage to our Native American history through games and stories). Once a week we have cabin night where each cabin will have an opportunity to develop closer ties. For example, Jay cabin might go tubing while Panther may make brownies and watch a movie. There may be a cabin campfire where shared stories and s’mores are passed around the fire pit. At bedtime, there is plenty of tucking in for the littlest campers and counselors listen to their campers’ concerns. Also, counselors may tell ghost stories or read to their cabin at night before bedtime. Even the oldest boys love this!
Most people think about separation anxiety as separation from their parents. But these days there is a new kind of separation that should also be discussed, separation from electronics. We live in a world where parents and their children are often attached to some form of electronic device– our computers, an Ipad, cell phones, and the like. Many kids will spend time at night playing computer games rather than reading a good book or playing board games. At Adirondack, we believe it is essential to completely disconnect to better enable meaningful connections with each other, our natural environment, and most importantly, with ourselves. This is especially important after all of the virtual time many of us have spent these past few years.
Adirondack Camp remains a refuge from the increasing onslaught of electronics in our daily lives. Encouraging out of door activity and direct interpersonal relationships is better enabled by leaving our fancy gadgets at home. (We do however recognize the importance of music during quiet times or at night and devices that solely play music in the cabins are allowed.) Parents often remark how wonderful it is to see how their children spend time without ready access to video games or YouTube.
Life is increasingly complicated and there are many pressures on our kids, it seems earlier and earlier. For this reason, we strive to reflect a throwback to simpler times - with open-air cabins, floating wooden docks, Old Town canoes, a live bugler who marks the day with Reveille and Taps, and only the moon to illuminate the night. Kids who have a chance simply to be and to breathe without the worries and pressures often put upon them are given the space for personal reflection, the confidence to try new things, and truly dare to be themselves.
(Excerpt from Camp Navigator Magazine, by Shawn Carraher)