Children at summer campJust a month or two ago, when your children came home from camp, there is a strong likelihood they were gushing about the lifelong friends they had 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 didn’t express were the more subtle life lessons and skills they learned at camp. Yet those skills, if nurtured at home after camp, translate into a lasting self-confidence, a greater comfort in expressing opinions, and maybe even a willingness to do household chores with a smile!

The American Camp Association offers these tips to help families support their happy campers and keep the lessons of camp alive even after the summer memories begin to fade:

  • 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 your child that you appreciate the positive attitude and willingness to help that she developed at camp.
  • Become camp-like. Parents can set an example by demonstrating a willingness to change something at home in order to reinforce some of the things campers learned during the summer. 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 negative compliments. Don’t inadvertently sabotage efforts to grow and express individuality by pointing out differences in behavior before and after camp. Instead of saying, “you never did this before,” praise your child’s behaviors in a genuine way. For example, catch kids doing something good, and say, “I noticed how patient you were with your little brother.”

A Lasting Impression

Reinforcing the positive behaviors kids have learned at camp will help you reap the rewards and satisfaction of a more self-assured, responsible, mature child. Embracing the spirit of camp not only extends the benefits of camp throughout the year for your child, it also extends those benefits to your entire family and provides a positive experience for everyone.

Adapted from “Make the Benefits of Camp Last All Year—Positive Influence Can Mean Ongoing Success,” originally published in the September 2010 issue of the ACA’s Camp e-News.