Tag: homesickness

Fun summer camp experiences

Lessons of a Future Skinned Knee

I’ve written about Dr. Mogel’s Blessing of a Skinned Knee before… and most likely will again. The work she put out into the world is useful and applicable, regardless of what is going on in the culture around us. But that’s not exactly what I’m thinking about today.

I’m thinking about homesickness and how thinking about a future ‘skinned knee’ can help.

Missing Home is Real

Let’s the obvious thing out of the way – the vast majority of kids will miss home at some point while at overnight camp. It doesn’t matter if you are at Weequahic or some other great camp in Wayne County or North Carolina or California.

How campers experience these very normal missing home feelings will differ. Some will hold it in and ‘soldier on.’ Others will let all the feeling hang out for everyone to see. It may happen when you in the Health Center, getting ready for bed or even walking back from the waterpark.

One thing that is consistent across campers: looking back on them, these feeling always seem much bigger than they actually were.

This is a normal reaction. If our brains hadn’t developed this habit, we humans wouldn’t have made it past the sabertooth tigers in our past. Being overly aware of negative, potentially dangerous things is important!

The problem is that now the vast majority of risks that could have done us harm thousands of years ago aren’t around… but that warning system in our head is still really, really good at blowing bad feelings out of proportion.

That’s why the future skinned knee idea is so important.

The Lesson of a Future Skinned Knee

I had a great conversation with a younger camper the other day. He was concerned about coming back because he had missed home ‘a couple of times’ last summer.

I get it. Those feelings are big! And… there is always more to the story. When I asked him, he had missed home when he was feeling sick one afternoon and one other time. But, he loved camp… kept saying that over and over.

I believed him – I saw a guy last summer having a blast! He wanted to come back but didn’t want to feel sad again.

When I asked, he agreed that he felt sad for maybe 5.5 hours over the course of the three weeks, most of it coming when he felt sick.

“Jorge (not his real name), you love baseball, right?” I asked. “Sure do.” “Ok, think about playing a game tomorrow. If you knew right now, without a doubt, you’ll skin your knee during the game tomorrow, would you still play? It would hurt, it would be real… and you’d get to play the game you love.”

“Sure, I’d still play,” he said to me almost incredulously.

“Well, Jorge… it’s the same thing with camp. You know you are going to miss home. It’s going to be real and not feel great… for a little while. But you still get all the other good things, too.”

Balancing the Future and the Past

We all have bad experiences in the past. Someone was mean to us, we scrapped a knee. Those are real hurts and can affect our future… if we let them. The challenge is to imagine those possible or certain future hurts and weigh them thoughtfully about the good we’ll get even when dealing with the bad or difficult.

I know enough now that, though I don’t want to exercise all the time, I feel better after having done so. I also know that, even though my son’s piano recital or football game may not go perfectly, I’ll have so much fun watching them play.

Campers, when you think that missing home will hold you back from going to camp, I completely understand. It’s a real, honest feeling. Just do me a favor: think about all the fun you’ll be missing and then make a decision.

Just an idea from a future skinned knee. Have a great weekend!

It’s Natural! A Note to Nervous Campers

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,




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!