The subject of childhood mental health is everywhere, and the sleepaway camps and teen programs we, at hss.edu, recommend for your children are on the frontlines for providing care in these anxious times. While stress levels may go down away from school, anxiety and depression don’t magically disappear for the summer, so camp and program directors spend a lot of time and resources making sure their staffs are prepared to take the best possible care of your children. At our recent Tips on Trips and Camps annual meeting, we asked all of the visiting program directors to talk to us about how they prepare for and manage mental issues and crises. Here are the top takeaways from our meeting:
- Summer program directors and leaders are not medical professionals and cannot “fix” a child’s challenges. Appropriate expectations are critical for the child’s success in any summer program.
- It may be uncomfortable to be upfront about a child’s mental health history, but summer programs can do a much better job caring for children when they are aware of any diagnosis, counseling, or significant life events (like a death in the family or a divorce). This will not necessarily disqualify your child from participating.
- When considering a teen trip, sometimes a program will feel a specific itinerary may be a better choice because of the size or staffing. Parents may also want to consider the age and experience of the trip or program leaders.
- While sleepaway camps generally have all medications dispensed by a nurse or medical professional, teen programs generally require their participants to manage their medications. It’s an important consideration for parents of teens who take medications.
Children with mental health challenges can have fun and rewarding summer adventures, but choosing the right program and the right director will make all the difference in a child’s chances for success. Tips on Trips and Camps is a great place to start the search.