Climate Change~Endangered Animals & Marine life~Social Issues & Racial Justice~The Environment~Worldwide Hunger~Children in Underserved Communities in the US & Around the Globe….All issues affecting teens and at the forefront of the next generation.
Everyone at Tips on Trips and Camps thinks you’re doing a great job parenting through these crazy times. We thought you needed to hear that today. We’re all parents too, and we know how not having any control over how the future looks or feels for our children (or ourselves) is a challenging place to live. As summer program advisors, we are feeling hopeful about sending kids off on their adventures next summer. Every day we hear from our directors about their plans for a safe and fun summer 2021. While next summer may still look different than pre-COVID days, every sleepaway camp and teen program is working hard to create pandemic-proof plans for your children. Please let us know if you want to indulge in some escapist summer planning – we’re ready to chat whenever you feel ready.
Have you seen the meme defining a “coronacoaster” – the ups and downs of living in a pandemic? I don’t know about you, but that perfectly captures me and my wildly shifting emotions. Interestingly I’m finding my kids are more even keel than I am. They’re teenagers, and like everyone’s children, they had to abandon their spring and summer plans. I’ve found them to be resilient, creative, and accepting in the faces of the losses they have sustained. As we head towards the fall, and all the uncertainty that brings, they are saying they will be OK no matter what. While a lot of their reactions have to do with their personalities, I can also see that the lessons learned at sleepaway camps and teen programs helped prepare them for this tough time. They are making the best of what the world has to offer and still having fun. They’ve found new ways to meet their goals, follow their interests, and enjoy the summer, all while staying safe. I can connect all the ways they’ve managed during the pandemic to things that a child may navigate away at camp or on a teen trip. The coronacoaster is not my cup of tea, but as it’s the only attraction open this summer, I’m going to do my best to notice the best parts of the ride.
The camp and summer program cancellations are coming in fast these days, and we know there are many disappointed and grieving kids and families. Whether it was to be a child’s first summer away or they are a seasoned camper, it’s hard to let go of summer plans amid so many other changes in our lives. Here’s some advice we’ve gathered:
- Expect that you and your children will go through a range of emotions in the days and weeks ahead. Tell your kids (and remind yourself) that grief comes and goes, and you might all have sad days throughout the summer and beyond. You can also let them know that you’ll all also have happy days and fun moments even while feeling sad about camp.
- Recognize the stress that you may feel as a result of your child’s lack of summer plans. Take as many breaths as you need until you can find a way to move forward. There are still some options for kids. We can help you explore if any of the available programs are a good fit.
- Encourage your child to express their feelings and memories about camp. Talking, journaling, Zooming, singing and dancing, doing camp arts and crafts, building a campfire, or whatever feels right, are all ways for kids to access their emotions. Kids of all ages can benefit from having their feelings named, so parents can help their kids by identifying what they may be experiencing.
- It may be reassuring to talk about how staying home is helping all their dear camp friends and counselors remain safe.
- Start making plans for summer 2021! Camp and program directors are already hard at work on next summer, and they are counting the minutes until they are back with your children.
We are right there with your family grieving the loss of all those future memories, experiences, and friendships. We are here to support you – please let us know if we can help.
Tips on Trips and Camps advisors compiled our list of great must-haves for every
camper, traveler, and summer student! Here are a few of our favorite things…
We found some great games for the bunk, tent, or dorm room! Try your luck at Five Crowns or Left Center Right. Laugh with your friends as they act out dance moves with Truth or Dance. And test your mental quickness with Scattergories Categories or Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza.
Deck the bunk with lots of fun items such as a pillow with arms! Capture the moments with a Fuji Instax Mini Camera. And amuse your friends with the Coke vs. Pepsi or Would You Rather series of books.
Every traveler needs these fantastic accessories. Packing cubes will keep the messiest kid organized. An Eno hammock is a must-have for relaxing on the trail. And don’t underestimate the value of a good, battery-operated fan!
The subject of childhood mental health is everywhere, and the sleepaway camps and teen programs. 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.
My daughter is the happy one on the right. She texted me this picture a few days ago from her summer program, where she is exploring the medical profession at a college campus. She and her new friend are holding the cow eyeballs they were about to dissect. I keep looking at this picture (while trying to avoid the gross eyeballs) because I love the big smile on her face. How great that she got to travel far from home, try out living in a dorm with roommates, make new friends from all over the US, and explore being a doctor!
Has your teen mentioned anything they’d like to learn about or try? Or possible college majors or career interests? There are more options than you can imagine! Let us know how we can help you find a terrific program for your curious kid.
How can the calendar already say December?
My mile-long to do list is stuck in September!
The darkness each afternoon makes me long for the sun,
And also reminds me of one to-do I must get done:
It’s not the holiday planning, shopping, or celebrating,
It’s not the decorating, cooking, or ice skating –
It’s choosing a summer camp for each of my kids!
Sitting on their phones all summer heaven forbids.
But how will I get this giant job done?
Without any worries about whether I’ve found the “one?”
I know what I will do without delay –
I will call Tips on Trips and Camps! Yay!
My Tips advisor asks all the right questions,
And sends me an email with excellent suggestions.
Without much fuss, the decision is made!
I’m the best mom; I deserve a parade!
For all you parents who are worrying what to do,
Tips on Trips and Camps will pull you through!
HAVE NO FEAR, THE APPLICATION’S HERE!
Summer programs for teens are as diverse as teens themselves. Your teen has done their research and narrowed it down to one amazing experience. Now comes the hard part, getting them to do the application. I suggest you embrace the process and here’s why:
For the high school aged student, the summer program application presents the perfect opportunity to have a first glance at filling out an app. Although not as intensive as the college application, many summer program app’s will include a short essay, teacher recommendations and/or an interview via skype.
Many students derive success by following the CEO method as they and their parents take the first plunge into what will likely be years of filling out app’s. The student should focus on being his or her own CEO.
Coordinate academic achievements and activities pertinent to the type of summer program the student is applying for. Paint a focused picture of coordinated volunteer activities, interests and classes.
Experience is valued. Often times while filling out the application, it becomes clear to the student that he or she is light on participation in activities or organizations relative to their area of interest. Upon this realization, the junior and early part of senior year are both ideal times to further involve oneself in new and interesting ways. Doing so, will help make the student that much stronger as an applicant in the future.
Organization is key. Be mindful to present the coordinated information in an organized fashion. Readers of the app gain insight and get to know a student through their application when the information presented is concise and chronological. Highlighting the most impactful relative things the student has done works well too.
Encourage your student to be his or her own CEO. Learning how to present oneself on a summer application will help them to understand what speaks to those reading their applications. Utilize the summer app to practice skills that will be needed in the future when, as high school seniors, they will be filling out college applications.
Every year, thousands of campers go to teen summer programs or overnight camps wondering if they will make new friends, learn new skills, or gain confidence in living independently. Increasingly, more and more families are asking about food. Parents are worried about allergies, dietary restrictions, and nutritional content. They want fresh fruits instead of sweets, flavored waters instead of soda, and foods that are not heavily processed.
Worry no more! Camps for Vegetarians? No problem! Gluten free? A piece of cake (gluten free cake, that is)! Nut allergies, lactose intolerance, egg sensitivity, vegans, kosher families, and paleo-diets have all forced camps to rethink their menus.
I remember my first meal at camp…..chopped hotdog mixed with canned baked beans, iceberg lettuce, red jello for dessert, and “bug juice”. I had no idea what it was at the time. I later found out it was called bug juice because all the sugar attracted the bugs. Today, most camps are replacing institutional foods with health-conscious options. Many camps hire specialists to make sure kids with allergies are properly looked after. The trend is to give kids healthy choices and develop good eating habits. Salad bars are at almost all camps. Breakfast bars are not uncommon. Cooking has become a very popular activity. More and more kids want to be in the kitchen and learn how to prepare delicious meals. Many camps have gardens that provide some of the produce. Most camps still have canteen and candy is offered, but it is typically not every night. Dessert is often served but perhaps not at every lunch or dinner. Snacks are typically fresh fruits.
If you have a “picky eater” or a child with allergies, or just want to encourage good dietary habits, do not worry. Speak to a camp director about your concerns. Contact a camp advisor to discuss which programs focus on dietary issues or are more health-conscious. I think you will be surprised that “mystery meat” is a thing of the past.