Source: Orthodox Family Life
Over the years many people have written articles of their experiences of summer camp with many coming to the same conclusion, “What would we do without our camp friends and memories?” Now is the time for you as parents to plan so that your children can have those fun-filled memories too!
The first time I (Lori) went to camp was when I was 9 years old. I couldn’t wait to get to the campgrounds but I also was very apprehensive. This was the first time I was going to be away from my family and friends. I went to camp not knowing anyone!
When my family and I arrived at the camp I registered immediately. I received my cabin and group assignment with which I would be doing activities with for the week. After all the paper work was done, we started to unload our car with the help of a few counselors. They showed me to my “Butternut” cabin! (All of the cabins were named after trees.)
I was really surprised to find out that the cabin wasn’t too bad. There were single beds, mirrors, and plenty of windows for those hot, steamy nights. I was feeling slightly more comfortable at this point. My mom helped me make my bed and put everything in a place where it would be easy to find. My counselors were talking with us about some of the activities that were scheduled for the week. I became more excited to hear that we would be swimming, canoeing, crafting, dancing, playing games, baseball and hiking. Not to mention having prayer services, flag raising, campfires, and as they said, “the famous end of the week BBQ chicken dinner”. I was looking forward to being involved in these activities.
As the counselors were telling us about the schedule, other campers were unpacking their belongings. I got to meet them and we were all beginning to become excited. Soon it would be time for my family to leave, which at that point I was ready to become a camper.
All of these memories came back to me as my husband and I packed up our daughter for her first full week of summer camp just a few short years ago. The apprehension wasn’t gone; now it was just as a parent. Here was our little girl traveling nearly eight hours away to a church camp where she really didn’t know any kids.
We pretty much followed the same procedure as my parents did when I was a child, and Sarah had a wonderful first camp. Since that time, both Sarah and her brother Andrew have been regulars at the Ohio District FOCA sponsored St. Vladimir’s Camp for the past few years. What we as parents learned from these experiences are important for all to manage as the camp season is now upon us.
As a kid, it was great that parents were trusting me to go somewhere by myself. As parents, we have to trust the adults in charge of the camp to provide all the nurturing of home while fostering a greater sense of interdependence on others.
Check out all of the activities that your camp has to offer. Most camps have many physical and spiritual activities for kids of all ages. Again, trust that the adults in charge have taken a great deal of time in planning a balance of learning and fun. Just like you, they have learned to be flexible. After you’ve reviewed the daily plans, you will be surprised that your child could possibly keep that busy schedule if they were home!
As well, be prepared for the call home about “how boring it is” or “how bad the food is” or “I don’t feel good”. Perhaps the best thing to do is listen attentively and give a few words of advice then talk to an adult. Many times, a camper can have difficulty in making adjustments to people, schedule, or a wealth of different things. Camps are designed to handle all kinds of problems with kids. Let the adults have a chance to make the experience a positive one for your child.
If you don’t know about a specific camp, don’t hesitate to talk to your parish priest about finding information. Ask the camp directors if they can tell you of others in the area that have brought their kids and speak with those parents. You may feel one can never have enough references but be reasonable. There must be some reason that the camp is still open.
Prepare your camper to follow the rules. Once again, the adults of the camp have taken great care in designing fair policies for all campers because there are frequently so many different ages with so many different backgrounds. Some of the best advice given may be “Listen to the adults”.
Prepare your camper to have fun. Undoubtedly, there will be some free time at camp. Encourage them to make new friends and include others into their free time activities. Some kids are exceptional at including the left-out kids and can change someone’s life in a positive way forever.
Try to check ahead for the weather and send the appropriate clothes. Balance the packing with the fact that they’re not moving in for a few months, just a few days. Send a few extra clothes and a big garbage bag usually works great for all that dirty laundry. (Hint: Tell them to make sure the clothes are dry before they put them in the bag!)
If welcome, come out to the camp on the Parent Night or Skit Night. It means a lot to the kids to see their parents from the outside world. They will love to see you even if it seems that they are quickly ignoring you.
Even with all of these tips, trust us, you’ll forget something. Talk it over with other parents and they will help you fill in the blanks. And don’t forget the bug spray!
Lori A. Kochan serves as church school director at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Mogadore, Ohio. Reader Basil Kochan serves the Church as choir director and cantor. Lori & Basil are involved with the St. Vladimir Camp and Retreat Center in Ohio.
Some Things to Do
In addition to the normal camping equipment – clothes, sleeping bags, rain gear, mosquito repellant – be sure to pack you child’s Bible, prayer book, and an icon of his or her patron saint. (You might even make a project of mounting and polyurethaning a paper icon; laminating works well, too, especially for tent campers or canoe/raft trips!)
Encourage your campers to keep in touch with other young Orthodox Christians they meet at camp. Tent-mates and table-mates can become life-long friends (or even future spouses).
If you have been looking for a ‘low resistance’ way to introduce more prayer into your family life, use Church camp as your opening. At most camps, priests, counselors, and campers have regular morning and evening prayers as a group, and pray both before and after meals. Ask your returned campers what they did, then ask them to teach the whole family the ‘camp prayers’.
by Nichola T. Krause