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‘Back-From-Camp’ Survival Guide

As we approach mid-August, we don’t want to admit it, but summer is coming to a close. My kids will be returning back from summer camp tomorrow, and while I am excited to see them, I have learned over the last few summers that the kids’ return home from camp can be a little less ‘magical’ than what we, as parents, tend to imagine. Here are a few tips for getting through the ‘back-from-camp’ period that may work for you:

  1. Laundry: This advice was given to me by several ‘seasoned’ camp Moms several years ago and it has been invaluable. We go straight from the camp busses to the laundromat. Laundry baskets, detergent and change already with us. We wash, dry and fold EVERYTHING at the laundromat including sleeping bags, pillows and duffel bags.  With so many machines, we can get multiple loads done simultaneously which saves a ton of time. When everything comes into the house, it is clean and ready to be put away. The laundromat we use has a sandwich shop next door so lunch is easy while we work.
  2. For Camp Use Only: If your kids have things that they only use for camp ( sheets, portable fans, flashlights, plastic drawers etc) and if you have the space, put everything away in a camp bin/area/corner so that packing next year is easier and you don’t have to go searching…Where did I put those flashlights away???
  3. Post-Camp ‘Funk’: This may or may not affect your camper. I think it is likely more prevalent in the teens, and may possibly affects girls more than boys, although I am not certain about it. I think we can all understand the tears at the busses as they hug their friends goodbye, in particular those who live in different cities or go to different schools. What some of us (myself included) do not expect is the bitter, foul attitude that sometimes comes home together with the laundry. The first year it happened, my husband and I were floored.  “How much did we invest in sending them to camp?”; “A thank-you may be too much to expect, but this nastiness…WTH?!?!?”. Well, if you experience the ‘tude that can also be referred to as the post-camp funk, know that it is entirely normal. The best way that I, and some others that I know, have learned to deal with it is to:
    1. Expect it…that will soften the blow
    2. Validate their mood, but put a limit on it: e.g. ‘I know this is a hard time for you, and I’m going to look past this attitude for a reasonable period but by  ****insert time here (2 days, 3 days, the weekend…) *** you need to be over it.’
    3. Give the affected child(men) their space and make the choice to engage more with your unaffected kids (if you are lucky enough to have one or more of those).
  4. Manage your expectations: (While this is related to Tip #3 above, it is relevant even if you do not have kids who experience the Post-Camp ‘Funk’) It is easy to get caught up in the ‘white picket imagery’ of a magical return home from camp where everyone is happy and bubbly and hugging and grateful to be home. Reality is they may already be arguing with you (or each other) before you leave the parking lot where you picked them up. Just remember that we don’t live in a white picket world. Also, the kids come home absolutely EXHAUSTED. They need to chill, rest and sleep (AFTER the laundry is done!) Best way to ‘deal’ , IMHO, is to offer your own hugs and love but don’t expect anything in return.  That way, anything you do get in the form of hugs, gratitude and affection are all bonus. It may seem like a sad coping mechanism, but I’ve spoken to enough fellow parents about this to know that when we expect the moment to be magical, we often end up feeling disappointed and unappreciated.
  5. Manage THEIR expectations: It’s good to have ‘back-from-camp’ traditions.  Some families may go out to the restaurant, others may have the kids’ favourite foods ready to go.  These are nice ways for kids to know what to expect. That said, it is also important for them to know what to expect as far as responsibilities go. Laundry is one example. Taking them shopping for school supplies, uniforms and shoes is another. Nobody loves doing these things but they must be done.  Kids tend to do better when they know what to expect than when you ‘spring it’ on them and they thought they’d be able to just watch movies all week. I personally like to mix in a little treat at the drive-through, for example, to make all these ‘chores’ a little more palatable, but you should do what you know works best with your own kids 🙂
  6. Have something to keep yourself busy, just in case… I got this tip just last week from a very smart Mom that I know. She had a whole season of one of her favourite series lined up to watch in case it just so happened that her daughter did not feel like spending much time with her during her first few days back from camp. I thought this was brilliant- So line up a new Netflix series, a new book or some other at-home activity for yourself that you can easily slip ‘in and out of’. That way, you can be present for your kids if you are needed/wanted but happy and occupied if you are not 🙂
  7. Listen to their stories: These stories may be nonexistent when you say ‘So tell me about camp’, but every so often something will trigger a memory and they may want to talk about it…when they do, try to make the time to listen to it ( even though they will undoubtedly bring it up at the worst.possible. moment.) Sharing their stories keeps the camp magic alive for them and hearing their excitement will actually make you feel pretty good, too…and depending on your kid may be the biggest ‘thank you’ you’re going to get 😉

Do you have any tips that you can share with me and other readers on how you survive the ‘back-from-camp’ period? If yes, please leave them in the comments below…I would love to hear them!

Wishing you an enjoyable back-from-camp experience…#YouGotThis 😉


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