For parents whose children go to overnight camp, visiting day is one of the best days of the summer. While it’s an exciting day for both parents and children, there are certain things parents should keep in mind to ensure a successful day. Check out these tips from camp professionals on how to have the best visiting day possible.
Don’t be late: “It’s important to be on time for visiting day. Your child is excited to see you and if you are late, it can create anxiety for your child,” says Mark Newfield, owner and director of Iroquois Springs, an overnight camp in the southern Catskill Mountains.
Let it be your child’s day: “Maybe your camper wants to sign up for every activity that’s offered or maybe they just want to hang with you under a tree for a while. Remember, you sent your child to camp in part to help them develop independence and autonomy, and they have been successfully practicing that on their own while they’ve been at camp. Let that process continue and allow them to take the lead and show you camp in a way that feels comfortable for them. It will make the whole day much more fun for everyone,” comments Matt Krouner, owner and director of Camp Schodack, a co-ed overnight camp in upstate New York.
Don’t take your child off camp grounds if the policy is to stay at camp: “We feel it’s important to spend the day at camp. This way, parents can focus on spending time with their children and meet their child’s counselors and friends,” Newfield says.
Be prepared that it might be an emotional day: “The anticipation of seeing your parents is exciting, but can also bring up some uncharacteristically strong feelings of missing home. Keep in mind that this is not necessarily indicative of the experience your child is having at camp,” Krouner says. “If you’re concerned about how your child might react on visiting day, call the camp director prior to the day. They may have some helpful suggestions based on their general experience and personal knowledge of your camper.”
Meet the staff: “Take some time to meet the people who are taking care of your child this summer. Ask your camper who their favorite counselors are and do your best to seek them out,” Krouner recommends. “Just a quick chat with them will help make you feel more connected to your child’s experience and will provide more context to the stories you hear about camp after the summer.”
It’s not a day for big decisions: “Try not to get caught up in everything your child is saying,” says Renee Flax, camper placement specialist for the American Camp Association, NY & NJ. “Take the day to just enjoy being with your child and encourage him or her to work through any problems with the camp counselor. If there are bigger discussions to be had with the camp director, visiting day isn’t the day to do it. Call once you are back home.”
Limit the amount of food you bring: Newfield says: “It’s okay to bring a special treat that your child likes, but it’s unnecessary to bring the whole supermarket. There is only so much food a child can eat in a day. We put out a nice lunch spread with plenty to eat. After all the parents leave, our evening activity is a drive-in movie and all the campers bring their left over candy for a big camp party. Whatever is left over and wrapped gets donated to a local food shelter.”
Refrain from talking too much about home: Flax says: “Obviously, life is going on at home while your child is away but talking about all the good times you are having while your child is at camp can make a child feel like they are missing out at home and can leave a child feeling homesick.”
Respect the camp’s policy on bunk gifts: Newfield’s camp frowns upon bunk gifts. “We feel strongly about no bunk gifts. We think it’s important that children understand that the gift of being able to go to camp. Parents should respect whatever the camp’s policy is on bunk gifts.”
Leave banned items at home: “Please don’t bring items such as an iPhone or iPad to camp to leave with your child. Respect the camp rules on electronics. Bringing these items for your child is only teaching him or her that rules are made to be broken,” Flax says. “Also, be sure if the camp is nut-aware, that you don’t bring candy or other foods that contain nuts.”