Homesickness normal for campers
By Rachel Gross Weinstein
Attending overnight camp is an unforgettable experience for children. They are immersed in Judaism at many camps, learn how to live with others and make lifelong friends. But it can also be a scary experience for those going to sleep-away camp for the first time.
Loui Dobin, director of URJ Greene Family Camp in Bruceville; Roger Friedman, director of Echo Hill Ranch in Medina; and Frank Silberlicht, director of Camp Young Judaea in Wimberley all shared tips on what parents can do to help make the transition of going to overnight camp easier on their children.
Parents should talk about the camp experience in a positive way, do trial runs to the camp and make sure their children spend a night out at a friend’s or relative’s house before going to camp, Silberlicht suggested.
“Children missing their parents at camp is a normal feeling, but parents should never tell them that they will come get them if they feel homesick,” he said. “Homesickness is common for first-time campers, and it’s never something that lasts for generally more than a few days. Also, it is common for parents to miss their children more than they will miss their parents. All kids should go to camp; they learn about independence and how to get along with others, along with strengthening their Jewish identity.”
A great way to cure homesickness once someone is at camp is for children and parents to write each other positive letters, Silberlicht added. Going to camp helps children develop skills such as sharing and learning about cooperation that they can use throughout their lives, he said, so being homesick shouldn’t be a reason for a child not to come.
Sending children to camp with something they are familiar with, such as a stuffed animal or their pillowcase, is also a great way to help them feel more at home, Dobin said. Greene Family Camp also welcomes families to come visit before camp starts, and he said that is a good way for kids to feel more comfortable before attending for the summer.
“Children naturally miss their parents when they leave to go anywhere, and camp is just another place for that to happen,” Dobin said. “Parents know their children better than we do, and there is nothing wrong with being apprehensive, but preparing them in the beginning will help. We have some younger kids who are teary-eyed every day for 10 days and then end up having the greatest summer ever. Part of camp is about getting over those feelings and moving on and missing home can be a tool to discover what children are capable of doing and can lead them to having a wonderful summer.”
Children are generally so busy during the camp day that they don’t think about being at home, so most homesickness occurs during downtime or right before bed, said Friedman, a practicing child psychologist. However, including them in packing, letting them label their clothing and bringing their favorite toy or board game with them to share with other campers is significant, he said.
Another beneficial way to help prepare children for camp, Friedman said, is to send them with a care package that contains their favorite snacks to share with their bunkmates.
“Before sending children to camp, parents should acknowledge in a positive, confident way that ‘I am going to miss you, but I know you will have a good time at camp,’” he said. “Most kids do miss home, and it’s a good thing. It’s part of the developmental challenge of being away, learning how to manage their own feelings and learning to reach out to their peers, bunkmates and counselors when they need help. Even those that come to camp often miss home periodically. We want to help children be more confident and self-reliant rather than going home being the first option, so we will do everything to make sure they have a memorable experience.”
Choose a camp fitting family’s needs
By Jordana Bernstein, M.Ed.
I have three children who range in age from 2 years old to 7 years old and there are so many choices for camp.
How do I know which is right for my children?
When will I know when my older children are ready for sleep-away camp?
No matter how old your children are, preschool age or school age, the most important factor to take into account is who will be caring for your children.
For preschool-age children, their camp counselors should have experience in early child education and should be nurturing as well as knowledgeable about developmentally appropriate practices.
Older children relate best and have the most fun with teenagers and young adults, as long as they are sensitive to and well trained about the developmental issues kids face during different ages and stages.
Make sure that the camp has a good plan in place to help meet health and safety issues that may arise over the summer, which should include staff that is trained in first aid and CPR. Remember, a camp counselor can make or break your child’s summer camp experience.
You can narrow down your camp choices by figuring out what type of camp you are looking for and in which types of activities would your children most want to participate.
There are so many different types of camps offering myriad activities. Some camps offer multiple activities built into the day — arts and crafts, swimming, sports and games — while others focus on one interest, such as chess, gymnastics, dance or tennis.
If your children have a hobby, you may want to look for a camp that focuses on that (more likely appropriate for school-age children).
Think about your children and which you think they would prefer and out of which type of camp they would get the most enjoyment.
Also, decide whether you are looking for a camp that offers swimming lessons or not. If you want your children to have swimming lessons at camp, then you need to find a camp that includes this as part of the day.
As your children get older, they may or may not be ready for sleep-away camp. One of the biggest factors to consider is whether you are ready for them to go away for one to several weeks at a time.
Your children will most likely be as ready for the sleep-away camp experience as you are.
If your children seem very ready for sleep-away camp, but you do not feel like you are ready, you may want to have them start by attending a weeklong sleep- away camp program. Once you and your children can both handle a weeklong experience, you can try more weeks the next summer.
Remember, every child is different; one may try sleep-away camp and love it, while another tries it and finds that it is not for him or her. No matter what, camp decisions for your children should be based on their individual needs and preferences.
When you have narrowed down what type of camp you are looking for, consider the cost and convenience of the various camps offered.
If you are a working parent sending your children to day camp, you may look for a camp that offers some type of after-care program.
If you have multiple children, you may look for a camp that accommodates children of all ages so you do not have to drive to too many places.
Whatever you decide, remember that the summer is a time for your child to take a break from the stress of the regular school year. Be sure your child’s experience will be a relaxing and stress-free one where kids can be kids.
Jordana Bernstein, M.Ed., is early childhood education director at Akiba Academy and mother of four happy campers.
Echo Hill founder named a Camp Legend by association
Min Friedman, the founder of Echo Hill Ranch in Medina and director from 1952 until her death in 1985, has been nominated as a Camp Legend by the American Camping Association.
The award will be formally announced Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the Camp Legends Dinner during the annual American Camping Association Conference in Dallas.
Only camp directors who have made lasting contributions to the field of summer camping are recognized in this manner.
In 1954, Friedman — known as Aunt Min — became the first woman in Texas to be a Certified ACA Camp Director and played an important regional and national role in professionalizing camp management and mentoring new camp directors, according to her son, Roger Friedman, Echo Hill’s current director. She was also one of the founders of the Camp Association for Mutual Progress in Texas.
“The Friedman family is thrilled, as my mother would be, to know that she has been recognized by her peers as well as a new generation of camp directors for the quality camp experience she created at Echo Hill and for her many contributions to the field of camping,” Roger Friedman said. “During the camp summer, not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself at some point, how my mother might have handled a challenge we are faced with, and unfailingly I ‘hear’ a helpful response.”
Foundation offers grants to first-timers
At Jewish overnight camp, “the summer of your life” is more than just an expression. It’s a gift, according to the Foundation for Jewish Camp. It’s a place where your child can discover who they are — and who they want to become — while having a total blast.
To help children have that experience, the foundation’s One Happy Camper program is offering need-blind grants of up to $1,000 to families with children attending nonprofit, mission-driven Jewish overnight camp for the first time.
“For your child, Jewish camp is just plain fun,” a foundation statement said. “But it’s also so much more than that — it’s camp with a soul. At camp, your child will have an amazing summer racing down a zip line, singing under the stars, and making lifelong friends. They’ll also learn values like self-confidence, independence, and leadership that will last them long after the summer’s gone.
“At Jewish camp, ruach (spirit) is part of every activity — from dancing to hitting a home run — allowing campers to explore their connection to Judaism in a meaningful way while having the summer of their lives.
More than 150 camps across North America are part of the program.
To find a camp and to apply for a grant, visit onehappycamper.org.
JFS internship applications due Monday
Applications are being accepted now through 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11 for the 2013 Klein Summer Internship Program of Jewish Family Service.
This six-week internship program gives students the opportunity to work with non-profit agencies in the DFW area, matching each student’s individual interests and skills with the needs of the participating agencies. Students are considered for internships without regard to religion, race or ethnicity.
Students accepted into the program will have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the community while gaining valuable work experience, according to a JFS statement.
For information, visit www.jfsdallas.org/rabbi-gerald-j-klein-summer-internship-program.
- Four paid internships and more than 20 unpaid internships are planned.
- Current high school sophomores and juniors who will be age 16 by Sept. 1, 2013 are eligible to apply.
- Applications must be submitted either online or directly to Beri Schwitzer, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Interviews for the program will be March 3, and the 2013 Klein Summer Interns will be announced by mid-March.
- Attendance at the June 2 orientation workshop prior to the start of the internship is mandatory.
- Interns are required to work 30 hours a week for six weeks at their assigned agency.
- Interns are responsible for their own transportation to and from the non-profit agency.
Points for Peace basketball registration now open
Registration is open for Yavneh Academy’s 11th annual Points for Peace Basketball Tournament.
To register, visit www.studentsagainstterrorism.org. Registration deadline is Feb. 27.
The three-on-three basketball tournament is open to children in grades 1-12. They do not have to be Yavneh students. There are also divisions for men and women and a Special Needs Division, open to all ages.
The Points for Peace team welcomes and invites the community to share in sponsoring the event and also to support the tournament the day of, with many volunteer opportunities available for all ages.
To join in sponsoring the Points for Peace Basketball Tournament, send an email to Rachel Goodman at email@example.com
To sign up to volunteer at the March 3 event, contact Dania Tanur at Dtanur915@aol.com
For information, visit www.studentsagainstterrorism.org