Camp Telaphiba hosts hundreds of dancers from all across the country every year. And every year, as a camp owner, I have had parents express their concern and question whether or not their children were ready to come to camp, to be away from home. The question arises because parents want their children to have fun, to grow, to be safe and outside of their walls at home, they are not too sure how their children will do. The concern comes from a place of love and protection, of course.
A STORY ABOUT Josie
Years ago, I met 14 year old Josie. I noticed her in the check-in line at Camp registration right away. She seemed reserved and nervous. I could see that she was hovering close to her mom’s side even as a teenager while the room was bubbling with energetic hugs and squeals from other dancers her age reuniting with camp friends from prior years.
I wanted to make her feel welcome and comfortable so I approached her family in a way that I thought might ease her into camp. “Hi! I’m Lisa and I am the Bringer of Fun here at Camp. I would love to meet you! What is your name?” to which she practically whispered “I’m Josie”. I tried to engage her a bit more without seeming too eager or scary 🙂 as the line moved her closer to check in. As I handed her off to the registration staff, I knew she was going to be on my radar to ensure she had a good time for the rest of camp.
Throughout the first couple of days at camp, I saw that she would take classes and participate in activities at the back of the room or group, just on the fringe, outside the “mass group”. She didn’t talk much to others but did engage when others approached her. A few girls made it their mission to have meals with her as naturally happens for kiddos who are a little more shy than others with those not so shy. She didn’t say “no” to that effort but her energy and enthusiasm didn’t seem to change too much.
Now, I want everyone to love camp as much as I do so I continued to pay attention to Josie, checking in with her intermittently, as did other staff and campers.
Then, she came to me on Day 4 of the 5 day camp and asked “Miss Lisa, can I please call my mom?” Of course, I immediately helped her to do so and once she was done talking to her, I got the chance to chat with mom. “Josie would like to come home so I will be coming to get her later today.” her mom kindly said and although I felt defeated, I went to helping Josie to pack up…
Later that afternoon, mom arrived and just as I was going to get Josie and her things to escort her to mom, she stopped me with tears in her eyes, “Lisa, what you all have done here at this camp is nothing short of incredible. When I brought Josie here I waited in the parking area for four hours before driving off because I was sure Josie would want to come back home. I waited every day for her to call as she has had a really difficult time at school, making friends, and feeling comfortable in environments outside of home. We knew this camp experience was just going to be a test of how she could try something new and hard and we were totally fine with it being a super small win if even for a few hours. She made it 4 days!! Our family is forever grateful for you helping her to overcome her fears, her anxieties and for helping her gain confidence and independence in the face of challenges outside of her control.”
I was speechless. A week or so later, I got an email from Josie’s mom that said Josie said that Camp Telaphiba was one of her favorite experiences and that she would love to come back to try to stay the entire time the next summer.
HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOU
I think of Josie every time a concerned parent asks me about how to know if their child is ready for camp. I think about how much Josie grew without me even realizing that was happening every single hour of every single day she was with us.
I believe that children can do amazing things that we, as parents, might not even realize. I also believe that it is our job as teachers, camp counselors and parents to help children gain independence in any way that we can even if that might not be comfortable for us. Right, moms?
I have seen so many children overcome homesickness, anxiety, and fear in so many ways at camp. It might be trying a new dance move, talking to someone they didn’t know before, going on a rollercoaster, or eating a new food.
I see resilience, perseverance, independence and confidence all manifest in every camper of every camp in the incredibly short time while they are with us at camp. It is unlike anything I see in the world in the other months of the year when we aren’t at camp. I think this happens for a few reasons.
Camp provides a new environment where kids have the ability to grow outside of their homes.
Camp doesn’t have mom or dad within arm’s reach to help them.
Camp does have loving, supportive staff who can help at any time.
Camp has a very positive, fun environment.
Camp is full of kids “doing this for the first time”.
Camp has a “We are all in this together” feel that can’t really be explained.
I guess what I am really reflecting on and trying to share with any parents who aren’t sure if their child is ready for camp, consider this…..
Overcoming setbacks and challenges is where campers and humans, in general, can feel most successful. If your child has expressed interest in coming to camp, in any way, tiny or large, they are probably ready. Ready as they will ever be and we are here to help them be successful. We have years of experience doing so. Just ask Josie and her family and all of the other families that have come since then.
Let your child GROW their independence and confidence in our safe environment here at Camp Telaphiba. We will support them when they are a little homesick, when they are not quite getting a move, or are nervous about an activity, and when they don’t know how to talk to a new friend.
We hope you will have faith in them to try to do this. This love and support, from you, as parents, looks different at different ages obviously but I do believe that helping children to grow their own character will benefit them their entire lives in all different life situations.
Here, at Camp T, our mission is to provide a unique summer dance experience and what better way to do that than to help them gain independence and confidence away from the loving arms of their parents with role models and teachers who really care about them and their growth as people who encourage them and their perseverance when the going gets tough.
If you have any questions about how to get your child to camp with us, please don’t hesitate to call (720) 580-2267 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help!
Contact: Camp Telaphiba
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