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Kid-Sick or Kid-Free-Jubilee?

Posted by on June 14, 2019

Kid-Sick or Kid-Free-Jubilee?

Tips from a First-Time Sleepaway Camp Parent…

who also happens to be a child and family psychologist

Andrea Gurney, PhD, Deer Run Alumna, Camp Mom

 

Okay, parents of campers—let’s be honest, for some of us, the mere thought of dropping our kids off on the shores of Winnipesaukee causes our stomach to drop and our eyes to water. We are going to miss our kids so much! For others, we cannot wait to have some down time and our “to-do” list is growing by the day. Perhaps for many of us, we find ourselves somewhere in between—excited for some kid-free time but worried that we will be the ones crying on Incoming Day as we wave goodbye.

Wherever you fall, let me start by saying this: it’s okay! It is completely expected and “normal” to experience a myriad of emotions upon separation from our children (whether it’s the first time or the tenth time you’ve been separated!); it’s known as “kidsickness.” Here are five tips and reminders to help you (and therefore your soon-to-be camper!) relish the camp experience:

One: Remember the Benefits. There are numerous reasons we send our kids to camp: a positive Christian experience and strengthening of faith, establishing new friendships, learning new skills, experiencing the outdoors. Think through why your family chose to send your child to camp. Remembering the specific reasons will remind you of the gift you are giving your child by sending them to Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost!

Going a little deeper – be assured that:

  • Getting kids outside of their comfort zone leads to growth.
  • Sending children to camp gives them the oh-so-important message you can do this; it empowers them and helps them develop tenacity and grit.
  • When kids are away from home, they learn decision-making and problem-solving skills, which in turn increases their competence and self-confidence.
  • Living, playing, and working together encourages teamwork and increases collaboration and negotiation skills.
  • Being unplugged and outdoors not only promotes appreciation and stewardship of God’s creation, but also allows children to delay gratification, reflect, slow down, and fully embrace human connections (which is what we are created to do)! Taking a break from technology also improves sleep.

Note: this is true for all of us!!

 

Two: Stay in the Present. As parents, it’s natural to want to protect our children. We want to keep them from harm and make sure nothing goes awry. We might even believe that somehow, if we worry just enough, we can control things and make them go right. However, this often leads us down a path of anxiety as we begin to parent out of fear. So when you find yourself thinking of “what if” scenarios, ground yourself in the present, evaluate whether your concern is based on fact or fear, and think about realistic and reasonable courses of action.

 

Three: Focus on the Positive. Optimistic thinking is a resiliency skill that we develop in face of hardship or stress. Although it won’t change the situation—in other words, it won’t bring your child back home from camp tomorrow—it gives us perspective and changes our attitude.

 

Four: Keep in Touch. Although there will be no care packages this summer at Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost, rest hour will always be a highlight of the day, with the million dollar question being, “Did I get mail?”  There is no better time and place for good, old-fashioned letter writing. (This is a great skill to teach your kids, not just the lost art of writing a letter, but addressing an envelope!) And if you can’t wait for your news to get to Camp in three days, you can subscribe to Bunk Notes and send your camper letters, puzzles and pictures from home.

 

Five: Practice Self-Care. While your kids are away at camp, this is the perfect opportunity to take time for yourself! Be mindful to not fill all your time with additional tasks, but rather enjoy activities that you wouldn’t otherwise do with kids in tow (e.g., a long or strenuous hike or bike ride, spa day, eating out at an adventurous restaurant, sleeping in, a weekend getaway, etc!).

As summer approaches and you and your child make your packing list for camp, tuck these reminders away in your head and heart, breathe deeply, and trust that the Maker of heaven and earth goes before us, behind us, and beside us.

Andrea Gurney, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at Westmont College, and author of Reimagining Your Love Story: Biblical and Psychological Practices for Healthy Relationships. An East Coast camp girl at heart, and Deer Run staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at AndreaGurney.com or Instagram @andrea_gurney for practical tips and insights on life!

What’s in Your Suitcase?

Posted by on June 7, 2019

What’s in Your Suitcase?

Five Tips to Help Prepare Your Child for Camp

by Andrea Gurney, PhD, Deer Run Alumna, Camp Mom

 

As the days get longer and our children become antsier it means only one thing—summer is approaching and camp is around the corner! Blobbing, Inspiration Point cookouts, hiking, new friends, silly songs, and cabin devos await our children. Excitement can also be accompanied by nervousness—whether it’s articulated or not. So as you get out the backpacks and duffle bags, I’d like to offer some packing tips to help your child have a successful camp experience.

 

One: Get organized together! In this case, organization equates to three things: Make a checklist. Or really, just refer to the great one that is in Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and MRO’s handbook. Think through, with your camper, what might need to be purchased or borrowed in order to cross off all the essentials. Feeling equipped and prepared will boost your camper’s confidence.

If items need to be purchased, go shopping together. This can be a sweet time of bonding and enable your kiddo to get excited as they visualize a bit of their day-to-day experience and all the fun ahead.

Pack alongside them (not for them!), empowering them to choose specifics, and talking with them about actually using the items they are packing! For example, when you are both going through toiletries, talk about the idea of putting sunscreen on each morning before they leave the cabin, flossing their teeth every night, etc. When children are a part of the decision-making process, they feel empowered and are more likely to have a positive experience!

 

Two: Talk through expectations. I love New York Times bestselling author Susan Cain’s story about her first sleep away camp experience. Raised in a book-reading family of introverts, she packed a suitcase full of books, eagerly anticipating the silent reading time that would take place with her cabinmates. Imagine her surprise when cabin time meant memorizing rambunctious chants rather than reading!

It behooves us to talk with our kids about their expectations of camp. By doing so, we can gently correct any misguided assumptions and help them articulate concerns or set goals. Additionally, when we make time to talk with our children about their expectations, we better equip and prepare them psychologically as well as help to prevent disappointment, frustration and anger as a result of unmet hopes and expectations.

 

Three: Anticipatory Guidancedo it! Anticipatory guidance may not be a term with which you are familiar, but essentially, it’s all about the mental prep work we can do ahead of an actual situation, so that when time comes, we are more mentally and emotionally prepared for the event. For example, sporadically and casually talking to your campers about the potentially challenging “what if” situations:

  • What if you don’t get any of the activities you hoped for?
  • What if your counselor isn’t your favorite person?
  • What if your bunk make repeatedly teases you?
  • What if you get sick?

Having these conversations beforehand will not only better prepare your child for camp, but it will also normalize their feelings when they occur and increase their coping strategies.

Quick tip: when talking through the “what if’s, let your child take the lead in answering the questions. Then, after validating their emotions and ideas, offer additional problem solving strategies and talk through those. Additionally, remind your child of ways they have navigated difficult situations in the past as this not only communicates your belief in them but boosts their own confidence.

 

Four: Prepare for Homesickness. Speaking of anticipatory guidance, homesickness is a great subject to briefly talk through with your child. Many kids feel a twinge of homesickness at some point during their camp experience so when you are talking through the “what if’s” be sure to bring up this one if your child does not. And normalize, normalize, normalize—meaning let them know it is completely normal and expected to have these feelings. Don’t jump to reassurance or “fix it” mode right away; this is actually dismissive of their feelings! In other words, do not respond with “Oh, you’ll be just fine” or “You’re going to love every minute of camp.” Validate their emotions, empathize with them, and then remind them that homesick feelings are temporary and talk through what they can do if they feel homesick (i.e. engage in positive self talk such as “I am safe even though I am someplace different”; find a trusted counselor to talk with; write a letter home; pray).

 

Five: Keep the lines of communication open! We want to create cultures of communication in our homes where our kids know they can talk with us about anything, including their worries and fears. One of the best ways to do this is to listen, listen, and listen some more. Our brains literally settle down when we feel understood! So in the days leading up to camp, make sure to slow down and spend time listening to your camper; simply paraphrasing what you hear them saying is a powerful tool and will lead to deeper conversation and dialogue.

 

Lastly, as a psychologist who has worked with children, adolescents, couples, and families for more than two decades—I can’t help but also include a couple of quick “don’ts” to be mindful of:

  1. Don’t keep talking about how much you are going to miss them.
  1. Avoid a long, tearful goodbye on Incoming Day. Offer smiles and boosts of confidence instead of your tears and strong emotions.
  1. Don’t send letters that speak about how lonely you are, how quiet the house is, or (on the other end) how you are going to Disneyland without them.
  1. Don’t offer an escape plan; in other words, do not promise you’ll come and pick them up if things are hard. That actually undermines your child and sends the message that you don’t believe they are capable of working through challenges and overcoming hard things.

So there you have it…some do’s and don’ts as we pack alongside our children and prepare them for the journey ahead. Stay tuned for next week’s post when I’ll talk about how we can manage our own potential “kidsickness!”

Andrea Gurney, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at Westmont College, and author of Reimagining Your Love Story: Biblical and Psychological Practices for Healthy Relationships. An East Coast camp girl at heart, and Deer Run staff alumna, she currently lives in Santa Barbara, CA with her husband, two daughters, and playful goldendoodle. Connect with her at AndreaGurney.com or Instagram @andrea_gurney for practical tips and insights on life!

I Wish I Could…

Posted by on May 31, 2019

I Wish I Could…

by Ann Higgins, Development Director

Have you ever said, “I wish I could make a gift” when someone asked you to support a charity or cause that you feel strongly about? Have you ever said or thought that about camp? You are not alone! Many people struggle with trying to budget their income in a way to cover current living expenses and give to organizations that they believe in. It can be a daunting task, to say the least!

It may not be immediately apparent, but one way to support causes you believe in is through estate giving. While the terms “estate giving” or “estate planning” may not be familiar to you, it’s just another way of talking about something very basic—the terms of your will! Everyone goes about this differently. Some leave particular assets or an exact dollar amount to causes they support. Others might designate a percentage (a tithe of 10%, for example) of an asset to an organization, and still others give whatever may be left from a certain investment or retirement account. There are many ways to arrange it so that you can support Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, Moose River Outpost, and future generations of campers. While estate planning can be difficult to think about, it’s important. After all, we will all be leaving this world behind someday, and we have the ability to decide what our legacies will be.

Recently, Eileen “Bobbe” Hackman, Camp Deer Run’s first Director, went home to be with the Lord. Bobbe loved camp and its community and was instrumental in the establishment of many of Deer Run’s traditions that continue today. The ministry was important to her, and by naming camp in her will, her legacy is one of sharing this important ministry with kids who need financial assistance to come to camp. She made her “I wish I could” into a future, influential gift to a place she loved. We are incredibly grateful for her and for her kind and thoughtful gift.

So, if you have ever said, “I wish I could give,” well, maybe you can… just not right now. At Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost, we have a planned giving program in place that can help you make a future gift that would benefit campers and the ministry as a whole. Our website has all kinds of information on the many ways you can give as well as general information on estate planning and sample documents for gift designations. As you think about what you would like your legacy to be, I hope you will prayerfully consider including camp in your planning. Your legacy, like Bobbe’s, could be one of sharing the love of Christ through our gospel-centered communities and in the beauty of God’s creation. An experience that, for so many campers, results in a life fully devoted to living out the message of our Lord Jesus Christ wherever they are called to serve. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a remarkable legacy.

For more information or if you have questions about the Planned Giving Program, please contact Ann Higgins.

Ann Higgins is the Director of Development for Camp Brookwoods, Deer Run, and Moose River Outpost where the best part of her job is interacting with the thankful and generous camp family that supports our mission. You can reach her at ann@christiancamps.net

 

A WILD Reunion

Posted by on May 24, 2019

A WILD Reunion

by Julia Page, Deer Run & WILD Alumna

Nearly 8 years after graduating from WILD (Moose River Outpost’s leadership program, Wilderness Intensive Leadership Development), I was headed back to Camp Brookwoods and Deer Run for the very first WILD Reunion. There, I would be greeted by a group of other WILD alumni and staff. All would be excited to spend the weekend reliving those precious days in the backwoods of Maine and forming new friendships with others who carried their own related memories.

Julia far right

Saturday morning, we circled up to pray before heading out to the trailhead of Mount Chocorua. The night before, as I was driving in the dark and pouring rain to get to camp, my mind had been cluttered, thoughts racing between the events of the day and all the work that would await my return. But starting along the wooded path that led us to the rocky peak of Chocorua, my heart and breathing slowed, and the worries faded. God granted me rest, even as my body worked to scramble up boulders, reminding me through His creation of His power and providence. As we climbed up tracks of snow, trying to balance on the narrow ridge of hard pack, we recounted stories of WILD adventures, compared notes on how the WILD experience has evolved, and grew in relationship with each other, whether we had spent two summers in Maine together or had just met.

Mount Chocorua Summit, elevation 3,478 feet

Approaching the summit, the wind roared and snow flurries blew into our faces. “We’re WILD!” someone shrieked, and we huddled for a picture to commemorate the moment, bracing each other against the wind and cold. Nearing the end of our descent, we encountered a rushing stream with no clear way to comfortably cross to the yellow blaze-marked trail on the other side. Hannah began crawling out across a log, and I followed. Then all of a sudden, “She’s doing it!” I turned to look, and Bridget was marching straight across the stream, boots fully submerged. We were WILD, after all.

That evening at camp, after a delicious dinner and a walk down to the waterfront to soak in the view, we gathered by the fire to toast s’mores, share our highs and lows from the day, and tell more stories. Whether WILD was one or eight years ago, we had so much shared experience: trail food disasters, powerful spiritual moments, crossing Moosehead Lake in formidable winds, and a few antics and inside jokes.

We closed the weekend with worship in the outdoor chapel on Sunday morning, reflecting on what it means to know God and singing songs of praise. Looking around at the circle of faces, I was struck by how united I felt with this group of people, most of whom I had met that weekend. We were united by the same things that had drawn me to WILD 8 years before: a love for our God and for the mountains and woods He gave us to enjoy.

Julia Page is a Camp Deer Run and Moose River Outpost WILD alumna. She grew up in Winchester, MA and is currently a graduate student in Boston. page.julia.e@gmail.com

 

 

Hot Potatoes at Camp

Posted by on May 17, 2019

Hot Potatoes at Camp

Bob Strodel, Executive Director

Campers arrive in 5 weeks and final preparations for another great summer at Brookwoods, Deer Run and Moose River Outpost are underway. In the next several weeks, our facility will be transformed from “Conference Center Ministry mode,” back to “Camp mode.” Bunk beds will be repositioned, boats placed outside, grass mowed, Camp Store restocked, and in mid-June staff will start to arrive for Staff Training (175 between the three camps)! It’s a lot of hard work, but also a lot of fun. As Incoming Day approaches and anticipation builds, I wanted to share some camp news:

Jon Cooper, Food Service Director

Our new Food Service Director, Jon Cooper, started working at Brookwoods on May 1st. Jon and his wife, April, have a heart for people and they love ministry through serving great food. Last summer Jon worked at Camp Calumet in Ossipee, NH in addition to a full-time position with a local health care provider. New Hampshire campers will be seeing some new items on the menu this summer! The Coopers and their two children, Clara and Samuel, have moved to camp and are living in the Homestead.

We have a lot to be thankful for! This summer, camp enrollment at all three camps is very high. Moose River Outpost is setting new enrollment records and experiencing some filled sessions. We do have some openings left in a variety of sessions and I’d like to request your assistance by telling others about the great stuff happening at camp. We’d love for them to be part of the summer fun. We offer a $100 referral bonus as thank you for each new family enrolled through the referral of an existing enrolled family. Please call Dorothy at the camp office at 603-875-3600, and she can send a New Information package to new families.

Jason Webster, Heavy Lifter Award at BW Man Camp -2019

Brookwoods Man Camp was a great success! Over the weekend of May 3rd, 52 men came up to Brookwoods to complete a large list of projects: building a bridge, electrical work, splitting logs, repairs to benches at the campfire sites, staining buildings, and spreading mulch. Morgan McRay, the Convergance Coordinator at Sandy Cove Ministries, led the teaching sessions, and Jason Webster, camp Dad, led the praise singing. Over the weekend, 468 man-hours of projects were completed, which is equivalent of one month’s work by our full-time facility staff, for which we are incredibly thankful!

If you missed this opportunity and you’d still like to contribute, join us at Moose River Outpost May 31-June 2! To find out more about the work weekend at MRO click here.

Summer Staff hiring is almost completed at all three camps, but we still have a few openings. We are always looking for great quality folks to join the team. If you know of an individual who fits our staff member profile—think …hardworking…smart…fun… Christian role model, please drop me an email with their contact information. We will be happy to reach out to them.

I’m always excited this time of year, when summer is right around the corner. But this year I’m even more excited! Our 75th Anniversary celebration is July 26-28 (week 5) and I hope many of you can join us!


Bob Strodel has been the Executive Director at Christian Camps and Conferences for 25 years.  This picture is of Bob and his family when they first started working at Brookwoods.  Bob can be reached here.