Summer 2020 Parent Discussion Guide

How to Talk to Your Camper about Summer Camp Suspension

(adapted from Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways)

Give Yourself Some Space

  • Each of us is navigating a lot right now as things continue to change on a daily basis. Allow yourself time to process before talking with your camper; children notice if we are stressed and upset, so it can help to work through your own emotions when your camper is not present.

Listen and Acknowledge

  • When sharing difficult news with your camper, be prepared to listen to their concerns and worries with the intent to understand them. When children feel understood, their sense of security increases. Though tempting, don't leap into "fix it" mode or try to immediately make them feel better. Let them know that it is totally normal to feel whatever they're feeling -- whether that's disappointment, anger, worry, or anything else.

    • Listen to what they describe and reassure them that this is okay; let them know that you understand that this hurts. Reflect back that you are with them in their feelings -- "I'm really disappointed too" or "I'm so sorry that this is happening."

  • Just as we started with giving yourself some space, be sure to give them their space too. Let them know that it's okay to feel these feelings for more than just this moment. Whether that means spending more time alone in their room for a couple of days or looking for more support from you, let them know that all of this is normal.

Navigate the Path Forward

  • As you move forward, keep an eye out for signs that your camper may need your help. They may start complaining of a stomachache or headache due to how they are feeling. Depending on the camper, they may also start to appear clingier, more withdrawn, or more irritable.

  • During stressful times, leaning on routine is incredibly impactful. Recommitting to basics such as mealtimes, bedtime routines, and structured family time will go a long way toward creating a sense of safety for your camper amidst uncertainty.

  • After allowing them the space and time to appropriately feel and voice their feelings, work with your camper to help them figure out some coping strategies they can lean on. These will be different for each camper. Sit with them to come up with plans that work for your situation.

Some suggestions:

  1. Staying physically active and mentally engaged throughout the day -- any form of distraction can help to limit the amount of time there is to ruminate on the disappointment.

  2. Getting in touch with camp friends to share their feelings and feel connected to their camp community.

  3. Staying connected with the Shrine Mont Camps community by singing camp songs at home and staying in touch with posts on camps' social media (@shrinemontcamps on Facebook & Instagram)

  4. Taking time to talk about their favorite camp memories and what they love about going to camp

  5. Reminding them that camp still exists and that this is all temporary.

Considerations based on your camper's age
(adaption from

  • For elementary-school-aged children, be the director: You need a plan of what to say and how to say it. Anticipate what questions your children might have and what responses you might give.

    • Kids of this age need information shared with them with few words, that are direct and to the point. Every time you have a conversation with your child about a difficult topic, you are helping your child to grow and learn, and with children of this age, parents need to be in charge and direct the conversation.

  • For middle-school-aged children, be the tour guide: You need to lead but can also change course, depending on your child's response and tolerance for the conversation.

    • The conversation should be collaborative, with you sharing the information and then following the lead of your adolescent. Adolescents may be interested in talking about the situation all at once or may need time to process and then revisit.

  • For high-school-aged children, be the torch-passer: More is less with this age, so share the information and then pass the torch to your teen to let them lead the conversation while YOU listen.