About 25 year ago I was an upper primary classroom teacher. I can remember being entrusted with the hearts and concerns of about sixty tweens when we went on school camp each year. One particular year we ended up returning from camp early because of endless rain. We organised a “sleepover” in the classrooms to substitute the camping days we missed. From memory, I had about twenty empty refrigeration boxes delivered to the school and my students were set the task of building cubby houses to sleep in. It was pretty fun, but chaotic. Teachers definitely need chocolates and gratitude after it’s all over!
If you have a tween, you will know that school camp is a BIG, big deal. The night before school camp is kinda like the night before Christmas, on steroids! For some, the excitement is overwhelming. For others, the dread is a crippling. A few of our kids manage to see-saw between both these extremes, or land somewhere in the middle. COVID has certainly complicated things, so my heart is with those kids who face the disappointment of testing positive on Monday morning, or have had camp plans cancelled at the last minute.
School camp is a beautiful way to help young ones expand their wings and experience some independence. However, for most, camp generates some degree of specific worries. I’ve been talking to tweens about their school camp worry list over the past week. Food poisoning, catching COVID and someone being sick in their dorm seem to top their concerns at the moment. Tweens who hear exaggerated stories from peers can really complicate things. I know that the food poisoning stories seem to get larger and larger every time they are repeated!
If you have a tween or teen who is worried about camp, or any other upcoming event, I’ve written these five tips just for them.
1. Play catch with an enthusiast
Any emotion is contagious, meaning it can be transferred between two people. You can catch enthusiasm just like you can catch a ball! If you can find a friend who is super excited about camp, open your arms and heart to their positive vibe. The night before camp is a great time to Facetime them to talk about the next day’s adventures.
2. Write your own amazing list
Your brain will very easily focus on your worry list. Sometimes it can get so focussed on worries that it doesn’t think about anything else. To help it out, write your own amazing list. These are the things you are looking forward to doing at camp. If you can find ten things, that would be amazing! If you just find three things, that’s plenty okay! Remember, being worried doesn’t get rid of the positives. You can enjoy the wonderful things about camp (not doing schoolwork, the flying fox, desert at lunchtime and spending time with friends) even if you have some worries.
3. Finalise a worry action plan
You might be worried about something that has a slim, but real, chance of happening. For example, some kids might be worried they are going to get sick during camp. If this is you, spend some time talking with your trusted adult about an action plan (AKA: emergency to do list if you get sick). If it helps, write down the action plan on a piece of paper, and then put it in an envelope, seal it up and put it away somewhere safe. The idea is that you only open the envelope if your worry becomes reality, and you need to take action.
4. Get the suitcase close to the car
Don’t wait until the morning to imagine yourself leaving for camp. In fact, if you can, pack your bag in the car the night before. If you can’t completely finish packing your suitcase until the morning, try and get it as close to the car as possible. You might put it near the front door, with a list of the extra bits you need to pack next to it. This will mean that you’ll have less to think about in the morning and it will also help you imagine leaving for camp.
5. Tap into your courage
Don’t ever forget how strong you can be, especially when you have to. You use courage every day, for all sorts of things. You might use courage to compete in dance competitions, or make new friends, or play sports or try to do very hard schoolwork! That’s the exact same courage you need to use to get to school camp.
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