6 Tips to Building a Relationship with Your Child's Camp

Camp directors and staff just may be the biggest allies that parents and guardians will ever meet! There’s so much about educating and caring for children of all ages in the unique setting of a summer camp that naturally fosters a special partnership between families and the camps they choose for their children.


It’s well worth it to establish and cultivate relationships with your child’s camp. But, what’s the best way to go about that – with a day or overnight camp – when the entire point is for a child to be independent at camp for a certain period of time? What’s the appropriate role for families to play?


Pointers for Partnering with a New Camp


1. The camp will likely send you many messages about what’s next. They are probably ramping up for camp in some fun ways, and they’ll invite you to join the excitement via social media, their website or an open house. Read and respond to what they send! This will help you better understand the camp and their way of doing things. Whether they are counting down the number of days until camp or explaining the nuances of traffic patterns or bus logistics for day camp drop-off, pay attention to their suggestions. Camps are great at breaking down large projects to a manageable size for their campers, and they do it well for camp families, too. Camps excel at being prepared and ready for what’s next. Don’t wait until the last minute to get ready for camp. Follow the camp’s lead.


2. The camp will request a lot of information from you. They are not trying to torture you! In fact, they spend tremendous time and energy in the off-season culling through survey results and streamlining their systems to minimize what they have to request from families.


Two pieces of paperwork to return promptly are health forms and camper questionnaires, which you should complete thoroughly and honestly. If you don’t share important details about your child, the camp cannot serve their new camper properly.


3. Remember that camps have their own ways of doing things. Sometimes parents try to treat a camp like a sitter and dictate schedules and procedures. Camps are in the position to meet children’s needs – but they often cannot do things exactly as families do at home. This, by the way, can be an excellent learning opportunity for children to realize that other adults can respond to their needs but may do so differently from their parents and teachers.


4. You may be invited to attend an event for parents/guardians of first-time campers. If so, participate! Or you may receive a welcoming phone call. You’ll likely receive a parent handbook of some sort (or a link to it). Read and refer to it; learn everything you can ahead of time.


5. Learn what systems are set up for communicating with the camp. Every camp has preferences for the critical communicating that needs to happen before, during and after camp. There’s a lot of parent communication – incoming and outgoing. Familiarize yourself with the camp’s practices and procedures so none come as a surprise during the course of solving a problem. For instance, it’s not good to hear for the first time that the camp discourages or doesn’t allow camper phone calls at the very moment you try to call your camper! Due to schedules and staff availability, some camps might request that parents phone camp administrators or staff at certain times of the day. Following their requests saves everyone a lot of time.

6. Communication is the cornerstone of a successful relationship with your child’s camp. Camps have to be extremely intentional about communication with families and strive to streamline and simplify what they request and what they share. Keeping an honest and open exchange of communication is key for developing a relationship that works for you, your child and the camp. Camp staff appreciate it when parents share strategies that work for the child at school and at home, and camp professionals, in turn, may provide insights and suggestions that can revolutionize a child’s school year.


Lucy Jackson Norwell is director of public information for the American Camp Association, New England.

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27 Feb 2014

By Lucy Jackson Norvell