A Guide to Sending Your Child the Very Best Letters at Summer Camp
Your daily trip to the mailbox during the summer has its counterpart at summer camps across the country, where campers eagerly await one of their favorite times of day: mail call. When you send mail to your children at camp, you help them feel connected to family and friends and reassure them of your support in their home away from home.
- Send lots of letters. Campers (and counselors, if your grown child is now on staff) love to receive mail, so remember: There's no such thing as too many camp letters! If you went to camp as a child and have kept your camp letters, share them with your camper before the summer to help him or her get excited about writing and receiving mail at camp.
- The early bird wins! Send a letter a few days before camp begins. The mail can be slow, and this way you know your child will receive a letter within the first couple days of camp.
- Give an example. It's helpful to send kids, especially younger ones, to camp with an example of a correctly addressed envelope for reference, including their return address. You can also pre-stamp (and pre-address) envelopes if this helps your child. Include an address list in addition to any pre-addressed envelopes, as campers may want to write more letters than have been pre-addressed to a given recipient.
- It's the small things. Include small surprises in a letter: cut-outs from a newspaper or magazine, drawings or letters from a sibling (or a pet!), and stickers are all great additions to the envelope.
- DO write about… Ask lots of questions about camp life. What activities has your camper tried? Which are his favorites? What is her favorite camp meal so far? Ask about bunkmates, temple friends, siblings, and new pals. This invites them to write back to you with answers! It's also great to remind your campers that you can't wait to hear everything about camp, that you are proud of them, and that you hope they are learning new skills. This is a great comfort, and it reminds your children that you're happy to send them to camp.
- DON'T write about… Be careful about mentioning what your camper is missing at home, and try not to say "I miss you" too much. Send your love, not your anxiety! To minimize worry and homesickness, save mild bad news for when your camper comes home (for example, if the family pet isn't doing so well). If you have serious bad news to share, always call the camp director instead of including it in a letter.
- If you get a homesick letter… When responding to a letter from your homesick camper, empathize with how they're feeling but remind them of the good things they've already written home about and reiterate that you're proud of them for going to camp. It's also important to remember that letters are mostly written during down time - which is when homesickness can occur. More resources about homesickness are available from the American Camp Association.
- Time flies. Remember that by the time you receive a negative letter, it is already a few days old, and your camper's issue has likely already been solved and forgotten about! If you are truly worried, call the camp office and ask the staff to check in with your camper's counselors.
- Short and sweet. Don't be offended if you receive a short letter from your camper. S/he is having too much fun to write - and remember, you'll hear non-stop talk about camp when the summer ends! If you're craving more information, ask open-ended questions that invite descriptive answers (see #4) to help give you a sense of what's happening in your child's life at camp.
- Camp puts the snail in "snail mail. " Camp mail is notoriously slow, no matter which summer camp your child attends - it's just one of the side effects of being in a remote and scenic place. If it's been a few days without a response and you're truly worried, you can call the camp office. Otherwise, assume that snail mail is on its way and rest easy. Your camper is having a great time!