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(Not So Silly) Summer Rituals

Psychology Today published an article which explored why people might exchange in extreme rituals. Anthropologists studied a group of Mauritius natives who engage in several rituals surrounding a particular religious festival. Without delving into details, the conclusion of their study suggested that 1) rituals increase people’s identity with the group, particularly at the time that those rituals are being performed and, 2) they make people more likely to sacrifice their own personal resources for the group.

Well that sounds familiar. Doing something special as a group that helps connect the members and make them stronger? Anyone who has ever chanted their color war team color as they watch the final strands of a rope burn down can probably relate to this. Summer camp, at its core, is filled with rituals and traditions. Acts that might seem “silly” or “insignificant” to an outsider are often the glue that holds the members (campers/staff/admin) together – and it is able to do so for that very reason. Camp rituals are unique and cannot be shared with just anyone. They help campers identify with a common ground, appreciating their fellow members who have too, experienced this special occurrence. Feelings of acceptance, solidarity, community – these are feelings that camp professionals strive to create during the course of a summer. And are able to do so through practices you might think are crazy!

And maybe more importantly, as noted by the anthropological study, rituals make people more likely to sacrifice their own personal resources for the group. As a parent, I would love to know that my child understands the beauty in offering help to benefit the group as a whole.

So the next time your child stacks their cups too loudly after dinner, or sings the birthday chant one too many times, remember that these silly rituals are going on in households all over the country (frankly, the world) and probably mean a lot more to your child than you could ever understand (unless you too were a camper)!

You're The Best (Maybe Not?)

We are all guilty. Yes. We (parents of millenials) have raised great kids who are all very special. Very special:). Well, maybe not in all respects. And that’s the problem today. Kids (students and young adults) think it’s their way, or not. Well in the working world, that is not reality.

I had the good fortune to hear Eric Chester, school to work transition expert, speak at a very recent professional camping conference. Author of the best selling books Reviving Work Ethic and Employing Generation Why. Camps employ thousands and thousands of Gen Yers; and fortunately the camps themselves help these young adults develop further.

The challenge we all face as employers stems from our kids not having learned enough soft skills, be it at home or school. Camps work hard to help cultivate these core values in younger campers, which parents greatly appreciate (and seek out). While as parents we want to help our kids develop into healthy, happy, safe, self-esteem-strong young adults, we need to work harder at teaching them core values, including positivity, reliability, professionalism, respect, integrity, gratitude and taking initiative.

Because these are the values employers, including camps, seek out. Business Week has a recent story on this very topic: The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired.

Let’s keep building our kids’ self esteem and self confidence. Send them to camp where they learn best about collaboration, teamwork, problem resolution, meeting others’ expectations, flexibility, respect, positivity, independence and more (i.e. soft skills). But balance this with the reality of today’s competitive world that expects work ethic from the onset. Let them know what others expect of them, and teach them the core values they need to be successful in life. Entitlement is not one of them.

Pride and Anti-Bullying

October is bullying prevention month. I admit I have a close tie to one author in this area, and am a fan of a blogger on this. Both stem from my childhood.

When we pick our friends when young, we can’t necessarily articulate why. I see this often as a professional when I interview kids to find the right camp/program fit. They can’t put their finger on why they like some of their friends, but as they mature they will. That’s the case with my good friend and author of the new book, The Need to Say No: The Importance of Setting Boundaries in Love, Life & Your World, Jill Brooke. When I went to Jill’s book signing recently, it all came rushing back to me why we were so close and have been able to stay in touch as we do now. Her principles and advice she shares on learning the art to say no and dealing with bullying as an adult, certainly apply to kids and teens. If parents take the time to teach their kids when young what is right and wrong, as well as to be strong and compassionate, and send them to a summer camp or program that adheres to strict anti-bullying (i.e. zero tolerance), the chances are greater they will be armed with the tools to not be bullied (or not to bully) when in the adult world.

And most women of my generation were glued to the TV show “That Girl.” I have always loved Marlo Thomas, so there. And when you see a role model writing and speaking on topics that speak to your own profession working with children, you can’t help but think you were right to admire them when young. Her blog on Huff Post about Summer Bullying Prevention Tips is a great resource for parents to share with their kids.

When Marlo shares that our national conversation on bullying is a critical one, she is right. And that’s why I am so grateful to be part of an industry that won’t stand for it.

Happiness: Lessons From Children

This weekend my mother-in-law showed me (again) an adorable photo of my son when he was 4 or 5, with my niece. They looked so, so happy. Life was simple, they lived in the moment; no worries; no thoughts of the future. Just the thought of this made me happier; smiling from ear to ear. I understood why my wonderful mother-in-law looks at this photo and others of her amazing grandchildren, frequently.

Today’s Huff Post article on what children can teach us about happiness reminded me again how much we should try to be like our kids when they are young.

Happy Kids

Here are some timeless lessons for all of us, and my top 10 to share:

  • Go with their gut
  • Live in the moment
  • Believe
  • Say what they mean
  • Get excited
  • Don’t care if it’s new
  • Stop and smell the roses
  • Admit when they are scared
  • Engage
  • March to own drum

Imagine if we carried this list around with us and tried to at least do one of these things each day, I believe most of us would be happier. Personally, I believe camps do a great job of letting kids be kids, and encourage kids to find their own happiness by letting them do these things on a daily basis. Why can’t camp be longer???

Transitioning from Camp to Home

This time of year is tough for parents and campers. We cannot wait for our kids and teens to return home, but they are very sad to leave their summer home; their home away from home. Parents can help their children, and themselves, by understanding how their kids feel. They need to re-acclimate to settings (that are not so rustic), and run by you – mom and dad – when for 3, 4 or 7 weeks they may have had much more freedom, unlimited friend time and authority figures other than you.

I coin this process ’de’camp’ression.’ While all my tips are in this article I wrote for SheKnows.com, here are my top picks to get you, your kids and teens started on the right foot to pack up summer and transition with ease to home and school:

  • Wean your kids back slowly on electronics. Read my blog on the online camper rush for digital insights
  • Give your kids downtime to reconnect with friends – from camp, summer programs and school
  • Encourage sleep – those last few days and nights away did not include a lot of rest
  • Reinforce newly learned and important behaviors – especially the independent ones; don’t fall prey to old habits!
  • Start to evaluate the summer experience. If eating, sleeping, socialization, moods and activity behaviors seem off, this could be a sign to talk with the director. While you may consider a switch, remember the grass is not always greener
  • Give constructive feedback to the camp/program director. They really appreciate candor and areas for improvement
  • Start preparing for school. Establish rules, get his/her buy in and commitment to realistic parameters. Discuss what needs to be accomplished in the coming weeks and your collective expectations. Adjust bedtime gradually to get your child used to that early wake-up once again!

If you have any additional tips on transitioning back home, please share them with us (after you spend some bonding time with your own children!).

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