Posts Tagged ‘building social skills’

It’s Natural! A Note to Nervous Campers

Monday, May 8th, 2017

I enjoyed a great visit with one of our returning campers yesterday. This camper had ton of fun at camp, loved his counselors, made a bunch of friends, and was really nervous about coming back to camp for a second summer.

 

Why? You probably can guess it – our returning camper remembers missing parents and it seemed to dwarf everything else. The family was surprised as every word out about camp was ‘I had SO much fun! There are so many great things to do!’

 

This is not uncommon at all. It’s actually pretty normal. In fact, I believe it’s built into us from our lives thousands of years ago. Let me explain….

 

Many, many thousands of years ago, we humans led a pretty precarious existence. There were lots of things in our world that were bigger, faster, stronger, and meaner than us. We had little in the way of natural defensive or offensive weapons – our hands and arms are not very strong compared to a gorilla, our skin not nearly as tough as a rhinos, and our teeth and speed paled in comparison to sabre tooth tigers.

 

The difference – that which kept us alive and thriving when the physical odds were stacked against us – is that thing between your ears.

 

Our brains allowed us to recognize danger quickly and figure out ways to get out of trouble and fast! This ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in our brain, combined with our ability communicate and coordinate better than any other species, kept us going when we probably should have been a blip in the historical record.

 

Umm… And this relates to camp how?

 

Don’t worry – I’m getting there.

 

Ok, so our brains got really good at recognizing and avoiding danger. But sabre tooth tigers and most other major dangers we used to face are no longer issues for us in today’s world.

 

But, while we’ve made the environment around us safer, our brains have not changed much at all. Our brain still puts a great deal more focus (three times as much) on situations it feels are dangerous or scary over. situations that are perceived as fun.

 

What this means for us at camp

 

When a camper misses home – which 99% of campers and staff do at some point in the summer – their brain records it as a threatening experience and weighs it a lot more heavily (300% more!) than all the good stuff.

 

AND, if a person has not yet come to realize that they have a great deal of control on how they react to things and what they focus on, they can very easily fall into focusing on the negative rather than the positive.

 

Courage and Gratitude to the Rescue!

This is why courage is so important. Courage is a like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. And, you do need to demonstrate courage when facing those negative emotions.

 

You’ve got to recognize your feelings and then think, “Okay, does it make sense to be really that concerned about this?” If it’s a sabre tooth tiger, then absolutely! But, if it was remembering those 5-10 minutes of missing your parents after reading a note from home?

 

It’s a lot easier to battle the negative feelings when you combine courage with its best friend, gratitude. When you are remembering a negative part of an experience, you’ll need to balance it with at least three things you are grateful about concerning that same experience.

 

In the case of camp, when you feel a bit down or nervous about returning, you could think about all those new friends you’ve made, how you’d never get to play shaving cream whiffle ball at home (or something just as whacky and fun), and that a s’more with your fun counselors from Oregon and New Zealand are just better at camp.

 

At Weequahic, we are lucky to build dozens and dozens of great memories each day. All you have to do is start creating a highlight reel in your head to keep for those “rainy day” moments.

 

Final Thought

 

So, remember – those nervous feelings are totally natural and totally normal. They are an echo of what allowed our ancestors to keep going each day. BUT, if you start building your gratitude and courage muscles, you can overcome the feelings that are holding you back from enjoying the most out of each day.

 

We are excited to help along the way! Can’t wait for camp,

 

Cole

 

PS – One more point on this topic. Many of our campers, especially the boys, have a hard time reaching out for help when feeling a bit down at camp. The common thought is ‘It would be too embarrassing to talk about it with my counselor.”

 

I get that and felt the same way when I was there age.

 

Luckily for me, I have always been a really bad actor. Good friends recognize things quickly and help me when it’s obvious I need a pep talk. The hard part comes when the kiddo in question is a really good actor for those few moments when a ‘stiff upper lip’ may seem necessary.

 

Let’s dispel that myth with two questions and two facts. Question #1 for our campers:

 

“Do you like feeling like a hero?”

 

I have to imagine your answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ Ok, it may be a, ‘Um, yes – why do you ask? This seems a little off base.’

 

Either way, yes, you like feeling like a hero! Which leads to the first fact:

 

So do your counselors.

 

Question #2: “Is it fun to help another person feel like a hero?” Of course it does! Which then leads to the second fact:

 

When you open up to your counselors about missing home or some other concern you have at camp, they are so appreciative. Then, when you let them help get you back to those wide-open, holy-moly, “this is amazing stuff” feelings about your day, they are going to feel like a hero.

 

And, it’ll be due to you showing the courage to share your thoughts and let them help. So, be hero by sharing and help your counselors be a hero by helping you!

The Value of Communal Living at a Young Age

Monday, May 1st, 2017

 

We’ve all heard horror stories of terrible college roommates; the ones who are dirty or irresponsible or rude or have no self-awareness. It raises the question, if these people would have been exposed to more communal living experiences growing up, would they be better roommates as an adult? Living with others is a skill that many children only learn from living with their families. Many children never share a room or living spaces with people other than their family until they go away to college. So it’s no surprise that these children struggle when it comes to etiquette and social norms that come with communal living.

Spending a summer at camp is a great way to prepare your child for the realities of living with other people in their adulthood. It helps them become aware of their surroundings and the way they impact the space that they share with others.

Early risers learn to occupy their time quietly and respectfully in the mornings without waking up others. Night owls learn to keep things quiet once it’s time for “lights out.” Children who are used to being disorganized at home learn that their messiness affects others when sharing a cabin, and they begin to learn the importance of organization and cleanliness. Sharing a cabin also teaches campers to respect property that is not theirs, such as the beds in the cabin, the bathrooms, etc. They learn to be aware and careful about how they treat things that are not their own.

From day one, campers are taught about their roles and responsibilities as a member of a specific cabin. Counselors know that this may be a camper’s first time living with others, so they use gentle reminders and guidance to help campers keep their personal spaces tidy, to stay organized, and to respect the other campers around them. Every day at camp is a new opportunity to learn valuable life skills and prepares them to be respectful and responsible roommates in the future.

Living together with 8-10 peers gives campers the chance to learn how to deal with different personality styles. It gives them a chance to practice their communication and conflict management skills.

Nobody goes into parenthood with a goal to raise a nightmare roommate. All parents want to raise kind, considerate, self-aware human beings who others like being around and, eventually, living with. Gifting your child with a summer away at camp is about more than sports and campfires. It is about learning valuable life lessons that will help them become a more productive member of society.

Your child will thank you. And so will his/her future college roommates.