When children go to camp, there is a strong likelihood that they'll come home gushing about the lifelong friends they've made, the excitement of learning to swim or ride a horse, their favorite new hobbies, and the anticipation of returning to camp next summer. What they probably won't tell you about are the more subtle life lessons camp has given them — those skills that, if nurtured at home after camp, translate into a lasting self-confidence, an awareness of the importance of kindness, a greater comfort in voicing their opinions, and even a willingness to do household chores with a smile! The American Camp Association offers these tips to help families keep the spirit — and lessons — of camp alive long after the campfire embers cool:
- Remember to Remind —When campers come home, they often keep the spirit of camp alive for a week or two, and then things trail off. Use positive reinforcement to remind campers that you appreciate the positive attitude and willingness to help that they developed at camp.
- Become Camp-Like — Families can set the example by demonstrating a willingness to change something at home in order to sustain some of the changes campers have made. Bob Ditter, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, suggests: "Parents have to make a decision. Are they willing to change something in their practice at home in order to sustain some of the changes their kids have made, such as having a job wheel that you put up on the wall outlining chores?"
- Everyone Gets a Say — At camp, children help determine how their day is spent. Their advice is actively sought, and they feel like equal players. Emulating this environment at home allows them to continue to stand up for themselves and feel like a contributing member of the household.
- Avoid the Negative Compliment — Don't inadvertently sabotage efforts by pointing out differences in behavior. Instead of saying, "you never did this before," praise the behaviors in a genuine way. For example, "I noticed how patient you were with your little brother."
Reinforcing the positive behaviors they've already learned at camp will help you continue to reap the rewards and satisfaction of a more self-assured, responsible, mature child. When families embrace the spirit of camp they not only extend the benefits of camp throughout the year, but also throughout the family unit — ultimately providing positive experiences for all!
Contact Public Relations at 765.349.3317 or pr@ACAcamps.org  to interview an ACA spokesperson or for more information about coping with camp sickness. For customizable public service announcements or article reprints, visit our Media Center at www.ACAcamps.org/media .
The American Camp Association® (ACA) works to preserve, promote, and enhance the camp experience for children and adults. ACA-Accredited® camp programs ensure that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. There are over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps that meet up to 300 health and safety standards. For more information, visit www.ACAcamps.org .