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How to Prepare Your Bags for Camp

Tis the season to begin preparation for your child’s next camp adventure!

As the anticipation mounts, it’s especially important to ensure your camper is prepared as possible for their stay away from home. All the amenities your child has handy around the house will not be as readily available at camp unless they complete that one all-important, oft-neglected task: plan ahead in packing their bag.

Here are some tips to ensure your camper’s bag is up to par come departure time:

  • As camp approaches and your child goes throughout their daily routine, encourage them to pay attention to the things they use so they know what to pack. The last thing we want is stressed-out parents running around last-minute, trying to think of things their camper may have forgotten.
  • Make a list. This may sound rudimentary, but you’d be surprised how many people fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to packing and then forget what they put in the bag and what has yet to go in. Make a list and then check items off as they disappear into the labyrinth that is your camper’s bag. Organization is key!
  • Categorize your list. This makes it easier not to accidentally pass things over in one long running list. Suggested categories include clothes, outdoor gear, and toiletries.
  • Download our suggested packing list to double-check for items that may be missing from your camper’s pack.

The One All-Important Thing You Must Not Forget!

The most common mistake we find with packed bags is that they are not labeled with names or group names.

It is essential for all parents to write in big, dark letters the name of their child and the name of their group on all packed bags.

In addition, the packed bags (that you label) should be soft trunks or duffel bags – this will accommodate for limited storage space at camp.

All campers traveling to camp via airplane or bus need to ship their bags via Camp Trucking, a delivery service like UPS and FedEx that services the entire country plus Canada. Camp Trucking is much more affordable than these other carriers and will pick the bags up from your home and drop them off at the end of the camping session.

We hope your camper is as excited as we are for new and exciting experiences this summer! Just remember: the organized camper is a prepared camper, and the prepared camper is a happy camper.

For more information on camper baggage and preparation, in addition to Camp Trucking sign-up forms, check out our camper baggage instructions.

New Electronics Policy at Camp

We have spent much of the spring debating whether or not we should change our Electronics Policy.  We have weighed the benefits and cons of banning ALL electronics vs. allowing some.  After thorough research and relevant conversations, we even inspired an article that has just been released by Bob Ditter!  Bob is a well regarded child, adolescent and family therapist from Boston, Massachusetts, and is a nationally recognized trainer and consultant working with organizations that work with young people. Here is Bob’s article:


Plugged or Unplugged: The Benefits of Each at Camp
Reprinted with permission of the author, Bob Ditter. ©2012

I just got off the phone with the very thoughtful and reflective Jamie Cole, one of the owner/directors of Camp Robin Hood in Freedom, New Hampshire. She wanted to know my thoughts about a new policy the camp has been considering for this summer regarding the use of electronics at camp. I say the “thoughtful and reflective” Jamie Cole because she is balanced in her thinking about the issue of electronics at camp. On the one hand, camp is all about community and being with other people, not about “tuning out” by playing electronic games or being distracted by the seductive features of electronics. On the other hand, not all electronics are created equal! As Jamie points out, and as many camp professionals have themselves witnessed, listening to music on a an mp3 player, for example, can have a soothing or calming effect on many children, depending on the type of music being played. In addition, for many children, taking a “break” from the give-and-take of a cabin or group can have a calming effect on them, allowing them to “hold it together” and helping them be more successful when they are more fully engaged with peers.

So the question is, to remain plugged or be unplugged? Let’s look at the arguments, after which I’m going to make two practical suggestions.

One of the arguments about allowing electronics at camp is that children today have become so immersed in electronics that their devices are “like the air they breathe, the water they drink, and the food they eat” (Lewin). Taking all electronics away from campers might actually cause an increase in their anxiety levels in ways that could be detrimental to their adjustment at camp. While this hypothesis would be hard to prove, what is clear from recent research is that the rates of depression and anxiety are between five and eight times higher among children today than fifty years ago (Twenge). According to Peter Gray, anxiety and depression in children increase when they feel they have less control over their lives. With the increased pressures of school, loss of free time, and little time for spontaneous, creative play, Gray points out that the incidence of anxiety and depression in children has risen steadily. I myself have seen increasing numbers of children at camps throughout the United States who simply have no down time during the school week. They run from one scripted activity to the next, getting home to do homework before tumbling into bed, then repeating the entire scene day after day. For these children, having some “down time” at camp can be extremely beneficial, not only to individual campers, but to their peers and their counselors!

At America’s Camp, the camp for the children whose parents were lost in planes and the Twin Towers in the September 11th attacks in New York, directors Jed Dorfman, Jay Toporoff, Danny Metzger, and Beth Griffin had a place for children to “drop in” when they needed downtime or needed to “chill.” Having seen the impact of this “quiet zone” firsthand, where campers could draw, play quiet games, sit on stuffed chairs or even nap with stuffed animals, it was hard to imagine how some of them would have fared at camp without the soothing effect this down time. While electronics were not a part of the offerings in the quiet zone at America’s Camp, they easily could have been. I have a patient in my psychotherapy practice who is diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and who is prone to impulsive outbursts, and he routinely uses his portable video game device as a way of maintaining greater self-control over his moods and behavior. At camp, when he doesn’t have access to the “decompression effect” of his video gaming, he can become annoying and irritating to other campers and staff alike. He has even come close to jeopardizing his ability to remain at camp.

So my first suggestion is that camps seriously consider including an elective activity called “Quiet Time” as a legitimate, non-punitive “time out” for over-scheduled children! It can easily be set up in such a way so it doesn’t become an avoidance of things like clean-up or other duties, or for activity periods campers are simply trying to get out of. As I have noted, for many children, it can be the difference between what allows them to regulate their impulses in such a way as to be able to remain in camp at all. “Quiet Time” also gives staff a break from such children in ways that may allow them to be more patient over the long haul.

The “chill out” room: cards, board games, jacks, stuffed animals, puppets, drawing materials, quiet music options, stuffed chairs, and comfortable places for kids to “chill!”

My second practical suggestion goes back to the question, “To unplug or plug?” What if you let the campers decide? What if campers had to develop a “code of honor and respect” where they laid out all the considerations for behaviors with regard to responsible use of electronics? My experience has always been that when children want something badly enough and they are given the opportunity to create appropriate rules to govern what they want, they rise to the occasion. Each cabin would create an “electronics club,” where maintaining ones status as a “member” in the club (the EC) hinged on keeping the agreements. With help from counselors, it would be very easy to identify that code of conduct. Certainly it would have to address when and where electronics could be used, which would never be as an avoidance of making friends or fulfilling duties in their cabin or group. The games or other content (music, videos, etc.) would have to be appropriate and open to supervision by staff. All members would be required to respect other kids’ property (asking to borrow something FIRST, and accepting “no” for an answer gracefully!). Certain types of electronics might be out of bounds (for example, smart phones or any device that connects to the Internet) because it would take you away from what you came to camp for, which is to be with and make new camp friends.* Violating the agreement in any way means losing your member privileges for a specified period of time.

Giving campers a say in the policies regarding the use of electronics at camp would promote responsible behavior. It gives campers more of a sense of control over their lives at camp and gets them involved in creating reasonable policies and agreed upon consequences. All this happens while providing for the soothing effect limited electronics use can offer without compromising the essential premise of camp — which is to be on your own away from parents, make new friends, and have new experiences. Sounds like a win-win!

References

Gray, P. (2010, January 26). The dramatic rise of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents. Freedom to Learn. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201001/the-dramatic-rise-anxiety-and-depression-in-children-and-adolescents-is-it

Lewin, T. (2010, January 20). If your kids are awake, they’re probably online. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/education/20wired.html.

Jean Twenge, et al. (2010). Birth cohort increases in psychopathology among young Americans. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 145-154.

Weir, D. (2011). Unplugging at summer camp: Social skills children develop on- and offline. Student thesis.

*Dan Weir also argues that children never get a break from the social pressures of school like they do at camp because at home they go online and are right back into the social mix!

Handling Head Lice

Lice continue to be a major nuisance in overnight camps. In an attempt to deal with this extremely time-consuming and irritating infestation, Camp Robin Hood has tried everything from Cetaphil to pesticides requiring prescriptions, from over-the-counter concoctions to a Louse-Buster machine. None of these methods has been both safe and effective. We are therefore thrilled to announce that we have discovered a line of products that actually works! This summer Camp Robin Hood will be using the products of a company based in East Providence, RI called Bernadette’s Lice Removal Services.

Bernadette’s Absolute Clear products contain natural organic enzymes that kill the louse by destroying its exoskeleton and that make nit removal much easier by loosening the glue that attaches the egg to the hair shaft. Unlike other products that can have dangerous side effects and that are becoming increasingly ineffective, these products contain NO pesticides and they do the job…. safely and efficiently! The owner of Bernadette’s is a Nurse Practitioner and has extensively trained and educated our staff about how to treat and prevent lice infestations. While we will treat any camper who has lice, we ask that you consider pre-ordering Bernadette’s Clear Shampoo and Conditioner for your child to use during his or her stay with us. Using these products on a regular basis instead of ordinary shampoo and conditioner will help ensure that your child remains lice and nit free. We can provide these preventative products to you for a price of $26 for a 16 oz. bottle.

Working together, we can ensure that our young campers will have happy and itch-free memories of their stay at Camp! Please visit Bernadette’s Lice Removal Services web site at www.bernadetteslrcri.com for more information about their products and services.

Vacation from Medication?

Parents know how important it is to provide guidance and understanding to children with ADHD.  Whether that’s with positive reinforcement or through medication, it’s crucial to the child’s success that the support is constant; and that the same care be given when they are away from home.

In some cases, parents may wish to remove their children from medication while away at summer camp.  Parents often feel that the stress and constant grind of home life doesn’t exist while their child is away at camp. However, being away from home and separated from everything familiar can often be even more stressful.  Additionally, camp is a very dynamic environment, often providing even greater stimulation than a school and home setting.

Consulting the doctor (preferably a Child Psychiatrist) that prescribes the medication to discuss the wisdom of “drug holidays” is critical to the decision. If the decision is made to remove the child, it’s important to notify camp. It could be very difficult for the staff to determine if the child is having difficulty adjusting, or if they are suffering some type of withdrawal from their medication.

When looking at the potential reaction the child could have to being removed from their medication in a new, unfamiliar environment, parents may want to ask these questions and consider the answers below:

How does it benefit my child to be taken off ADHD medication?
Giving the brain “drug holidays” from drugs that can develop a tolerance (habituation that requires a higher dose to accomplish the same effect) is important. When the therapeutic benefits of the drug, such as being able to sit still and pay attention in class, are not needed, the medication can be removed.

Do we inform camp of our decision, or is this a family matter?
The camp needs to be informed no matter what the decision is, whether to keep the child on the medication or take him/her off.

Are there side effects to temporarily stopping medication?
The stimulant medications, Adderall, Concerta, Focalin, Ritalin, are rapidly removed from the system and can produce a withdrawal syndrome of agitation and discomfort, so the Physician should provide guidance as to the removal of the drug. Strattera, a non-stimulant medication, takes much longer to leave the system, but “cold turkey” sudden removal of the medication may also produce withdrawal symptoms.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/complete-index.shtml#pub9

Preparing the Family For Sleep Away Camp Series is contributed by Phillip Romero, MD.  Based in New York City, Dr. Romero is a relationship stress specialist and brain coach. For twenty-five years he has worked in private practice with families, couples and individuals and trained Fellows in Child Psychiatry as Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Cornell Medical School.

In 1988 he created Logosoma Brain Training (LBT) by incorporating recent advances in brain science and Buddhist mindfulness techniques to help people master their relationship stress. As a medical student Dr. Romero studied at the Yoga Institute in Bombay and received training in Buddhism & Tibetan Medicine in Dharamsala, India where he met with the Dalai Lama. He is a life-long practitioner of both Tibetan and Zen meditation techniques, and is currently developing Logosoma Brain Training seminars for the public. Dr. Romero can be contacted through http://www.phantomstress.com/.