As much as we all look forward to seeing our children at the end of their summer camp sessions—and as much as they undoubtedly look forward to seeing us as well—there’s no doubt that there’s something of an adjustment period. It’s the time when we help our kids re-enter their regular lives, after weeks of living independently, with wildly different schedules and activities than they were used to at camp. This is something that many Ballibay families are experiencing now, as several sessions have come to a close. (And it’s something that every Ballibay family will experience in the coming weeks, as camp draws to an end across the board.)
And while this re-entry period isn’t as dramatic as if our kids were surfacing from having spent weeks in a submarine or something, it still is a very important time for them. Our kids have not only just spent weeks forging relationships with other campers and counselors, but also new relationships with themselves. The value of these days of independence, self-directed learning, and cooperative living can not be overestimated. For campers, their time at Ballibay is a liberating one, and the desire to preserve this experience and extend it into their regular lives can be fierce.
But what about helping kids adjust in a more immediate sense?
Bringing the Ballibay philosophies of non-competitive play and process-oriented education is a long-term goal, which can be incorporated into home lives in a holistic way. Which is great—really! But what about helping kids adjust in a more immediate sense? How to stop the moodiness that descends pretty much the very minute your car starts crunching down the long, wooded road that leads away from camp, back to home? Surely I can’t be the only parent whose children greet her with tears that are both a product of excitement and of despair?
In the past five years of picking up my kids from camp, I’ve learned that—much in the same way it is incredibly annoying when people start talking about a movie you’ve just seen before the credits have even started rolling—the best thing to do is give your kids some space as you leave one realm and enter into the next. Don’t pepper them with questions about what they did or who they befriended. Let them tell you as they’re ready. They might be ready an hour into your drive home. Or they might be ready in a week. Or they might prefer to write their thoughts and feelings in a journal instead of ever telling you. All this is fine. It’s your job to help them find their comfort zone.
Beyond that, though, let them lead their adjustment period by showing you the things they did at camp that they want to do at home. Campers spend time at Ballibay making things, from ceramics to sewn goods to paintings; carry over this creativity into your home life. Leave things out for your kids so that they can direct their own activities. Encourage them to cook with you and go to the farmer’s market to get vegetables, both reminiscent of activities available at Ballibay. You don’t need to mimic camp to help them adjust, but it doesn’t hurt to give them the option of continuing some of their favorite activities.
Also, encourage your kids to stay in touch with their camp friends. Communication is, obviously, easier than ever these days, but sometimes kids get a little shy about initiating contact post-camp. Don’t put pressure on them, but definitely encourage them to do so. Friends made at camp are a wonderful resource for kids, particularly those kids who sometimes have a hard time socially at school.
And then finally, a fun thing to do would be getting a little pop culture involved. Read camp-centered books like Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings or Ned Vizzini’s The Other Normals; watch movies like Addams Family Values and Wet Hot American Summer, which are doubtlessly far from your camper’s experiences, but still super fun nonetheless. Just have a good time with the whole thing. And remember, the opening day of Ballibay 2018 is only a mere 11 months away.