About Jennifer Rosenstein

Jennifer is a lifelong camper who spent many years at both day camp and overnight camp as a camper, CIT and counselor. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons and still maintains many of the friendships that she developed in her years as a summer camper. Jennifer is passionate about the value of camp in a child’s life–building self esteem, confidence, independence, social skills and most importantly friendships. She works with parents to make sure that children and young adults of all ages can find the summer camp that is best for them.

Coping with a Nervous Camper

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Camp Lady Confession:  I was a nervous camper.  And, I have a lot of clients with nervous first-timers this year. More than usual.  As parents we can see the value of camp, but for  kids that tend to be more anxious in general, it can be scary and exciting at the same time.  Which makes those kids  even more amazing for wanting to give camp a try.  They won’t regret it.  There are ways to help your new camper through their nervousness to make the months and days leading up to camp easier for them (and you).

Be willing to talk honestly- of course focus on the fun things about camp but don’t ignore the fact that they will be homesick in the beginning.  It’s better if they are prepared for it and know that it’s normal and expected.  Their counselors are trained and ready to help them get over the hump and start having a great time.  Maybe you have your own camp experience to draw from and you can share how you handled feelings of homesickness.  The best advice I’ve heard  from a camp director is that you can miss home AND have fun.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other.  Let your child know that almost all of the new campers are in the same boat- they feel nervous when they arrive at camp, even if they don’t show it on the outside.

Take advantage of your camp’s events during the winter- most camps offer get togethers and new camper events throughout the year so  campers can get to know each other.  Everyone has such busy schedules but make time and go.  Your child doesn’t have to make a best friend right away, but even having a familiar face for the bus ride can really help.  Your camp owners and directors are your best resource for finding local families with new or existing campers to connect with and they are more than happy to give you some names.  If you have a child that loves to form close relationships with adults, give your camp owner a call and they’ll come to your house.  They can chat, hang out, get to know your family better, show pictures and tell camp stories.  This is what they do best so let them do the work!

TOP THINGS TO LOOK FOR WHEN VISITING CAMPS

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Congratulations! You’ve survived the months of May and June (sports every night, endless school functions, birthday parties, etc.).  You are on a break from making lunches and helping with homework and your kids are happily tucked away at day camp.  You are ready for your summer of VISITING OVERNIGHT CAMPS!!  By now you’ve seen the videos and you’ve chosen a few to tour.  Here are the 5 most important things to consider while you’re at camp:

OWNERS:

I can’t talk about this enough.  For some reason people tend to overlook the importance of the owners/directors of camp.  These are the people that are taking care of your kids for 7 weeks!   You should trust them and their judgment.  You should feel a connection with them and so should your child.  When they are taking you on the tour pay attention to how the current campers interact with them.  Does it seem like the owner knows every camper’s name or is he pulling the old, ‘hey buddy’ when one of the kids runs up to the golf cart to say hi?

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FACILITIES:

There’s two schools of thought on this one.  Some parents are adamant that camp should be camp.  Rustic.  No bells and whistles, just like they roughed it at their camp 30 years ago.  Some parents figure if they are spending so much money they should be getting beautiful facilities.  Neither is wrong or right.  It’s just a preference.  You do want to check out the conditions of the bunks, dining hall, and other areas around the camp just to make sure they’re clean and safe.large_0fa5ea0f04

STAFF:

I love it when I’m touring camps and I get introduced to a staff member who has been there for 25 years.  Whether it be the chef, the arts and crafts lady or someone on the maintenance staff.  They’re always the most beloved by the campers and owners.  Their love for their summer home shines through when you meet them, it’s the best thing to see.

Although it’s hard to really get a feel for the counselors when you’re on a 2 hour tour,  you can notice where they’re from, how old they are and things like that. They should always be friendly and introduce themselves to visitors.  Ask the owner how many staff members return year after year, how many have left during the summer and why.  Firing counselors is not an indication that something is wrong at camp, it’s actually the opposite.  If a counselor has done something that warrants dismissal you don’t want them being given second chances.

Ok, you are ready to go.  Comfy shoes (sneakers, no flip flops), sunscreen and lots of coffee. (You will be tired.) Remember, don’t stress, this is supposed to be FUN!

Happy Camping!

100 Days till Camp!

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Camp is about 100 days away!  Although it’s only March and there is still snow on the ground in some places, before you know it the bus or plane with be leaving with your camper on it.

Here’s what you should start doing in the next few months to get ready so you’re not pulling an all-nighter labeling underwear in June:

Stop reading this blog right now. Walk away from your computer and go book a hotel for visiting day.  It might already be too late.  Most camps are not located within a thousand miles of a Four Seasons, so the pickings are slim to begin with.  Add to that the fact that hundreds of other families  all need to stay over on the same weekend that you do.  Nightmare!  All camps have hotel suggestions on their website.  They range from’ really nice’ to ‘at least it’s clean’ to ‘just lay on the bed with all of your clothes on and pray for the night to be over’.  Pick one and book it so at least you’re covered.

Hopefully you have started some camp shopping or made an appointment somewhere.  Follow your camp’s packing list and add in some fun stuff too. If you have a daughter she’ll want to come with you and pick out her bedding, pillows, stationary, etc.  If you have a son just go by yourself.  He doesn’t care about any of this.

For official camp clothing and uniforms, your camp will tell you what company they use- make an appointment with them if they do a roadshow in your area or you can order online from their catalog.

Buy labels now (I’ve been happy with Label Daddy) and whenever you buy something new for camp, LABEL IT RIGHT AWAY!  No need to wait until the last minute and do it all at once.  Yes, you have to label everything.  It’s more work than it seems.  One camp director recently told me that some parents choose not to label at all.  WHAT?  You are not above labeling!  Everyone else has to do it, so do you. On the other hand, don’t over-label.  No need to label the tube of toothpaste AND the cap. (True story).

I asked a camp director what their biggest complaint about this time of year is. She said chasing parents down to fill out their forms.  I know it’s annoying and no fun and you have a thousand to fill out but your child can’t go to camp safely without medical forms, transportation forms, baggage forms, in-case-of-emergency forms, etc.  The camp doesn’t know the names and dosages of every camper’s prescriptions off the top of their heads.  They are keeping track of so many things, just fill out the forms and send them back, it’s not that hard.

Oh, and pay.  Most likely your balance will be due in the spring.  I know it hurts to write that check, but the experience you are giving your child is priceless.

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I’m Sending My Kid To Camp-Now What?

I’ve spent hours on the phone with parents touting the value of camp in a child’s life- how they gain confidence, independence, lasting friendships, et cetera et cetera.  I wholeheartedly believe every word I’m saying.  When they express doubt about whether their child is too young or not ready, if I’m being completely honest here, I sometimes think to myself,’ these parents are being too over protective and it’s ok to let them go and just be.’ It’s good for them.

… And then it was my turn. Last summer my older son was going away to camp for the first time.

 Wait, what?!

 Now I have to put my money where my mouth is.  I’m The Camp Lady.  The word ‘camp’ is in the name of my job! I can’t exactly go around telling people that I am nervous about sending him and that I lay in my bed at 3 am staring at the ceiling feeling like I could throw up just thinking about him leaving.  I’m not even one of those moms- you know the ones I mean- squishy, mushy, over the top in love with my kid no matter what ridiculous thing he does.  And trust me, with this one, there are things. Of course I love him more than anything but I was happy to ship him off for 7 weeks where I know he is safe, constantly busy and someone else is dealing with him.

 In theory.

This is MY KID.  MINE.  What if he needs me? What if he has to go to the bathroom and forgets to stop what he’s doing and go?  (It happens. Even at age 8). What if it thunders at night and he’s scared? What if he doesn’t know where I put his pre-addressed, pre-return- labeled stationary? What if, what if, what if.

 I spent months getting ready. (More on that later). The day came, we went to the bus stop.  We were all smiles.  He got on and it pulled away.   It was early in the morning so my husband, my younger son and I went to get some breakfast.  I sat and cried in my pancakes.

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Later that afternoon we got the call that the bus had arrived safely and then another one at night letting us know that Evan was doing great.  I had my doubts.  What are they going to say? That he’s being quiet and unsure of himself and overwhelmed with all of the new kids and surroundings? (All completely normal behavior for the first days by the way).  We checked the website to see pictures, we did the whole refresh refresh thing.  We sat on the couch watching TV amazed by the quiet.  We knew what each other was thinking  ALL THE TIME- I wonder what Evan is doing right now?  The nights were the hardest. Knowing he was sleeping somewhere strange and new, not his own bed.  It seemed like FOREVER although in reality it was two days.

It wasn’t until I got this picture from one of the camp directors that I knew that he was doing great for real:

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Because how can you not have fun when you’re an 8 year old boy with underwear on your head?

So, yes, it’s hard when they first leave but it gets WAY better.  Here are a few tips to make it easier:

 1. BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR DECISION

You did  the research, visited the camps, hopefully used The Camp Lady to help.  It’s normal to be nervous the first time your child goes away, but you should not be nervous about the actual camp itself.  I have toured hundreds of camps.  Each one is more beautiful and impressive than the next.  But I only got ‘that feeling’ at one camp and that is where my son goes.  It’s not about who has the highest zip line or the best dance studio.   It’s like shopping for a wedding dress; when you put the right one on it just fits and you know it.

 2.   BE PREPARED: SHOP LIKE IT’S YOUR JOB

Around February, your camp will send you their packing list.  It’s long and overwhelming.  It’s the Olympics of shopping.  You can do it.  It’s important to get everything and then some.  The last thing you want is your child not having something they need.  The best you can do for your peace of mind is knowing that you sent them with everything beforehand.  Plus, it’s fun.  I met my BFF from high school at a camp store in the town where we grew up.  The salespeople followed us around with a checklist like we were registering for our wedding.  We literally spent more than 5 minutes debating over whether to get a regular fan or a light up fan. (Light up).  And then laughed so hard about it afterwards at lunch.  Even after all of this hard work on your part, you will still see pictures of your kid wearing someone else’s socks all summer.  Cooler ones that you didn’t know about.  And you’ll think, how did I miss that?  You’ll get them next year…

3.  IT MIGHT NOT GO PERFECTLY

Even months before camp starts, your child might be nervous. They might leak out little gems at bedtime like “I was thinking about staying home this summer” that make you want to call and get your deposit back.  Remember, your kids are looking to you to see how to feel and react.  Be aware of what you are conveying to them and be truthful- they might be homesick- but mostly try to be encouraging and share positive messages.

 Once camp starts, don’t be disappointed if you get a bad letter, or if your first phone call doesn’t go as great as you had imagined.  Kids get homesick in the beginning. Some don’t get over it until the end of the summer. Some won’t even tell you until they get home that they cried the first few nights.  It’s all normal and you should expect it.  No need to get in the car and drive up to camp if you get some less than stellar news.  One of my clients waited weeks for a letter from their son. Weeks!  He was just too busy having fun to write. Of course, the camp eventually made him and they had to email a pdf of the letter because the parents needed to see something immediately and who could blame them?  Then they got to visiting day and found all of THEIR letters unopened!  Were they upset? Yes.  But their son LOVES camp and now it’s a story they laugh about.

 4.  ENJOY YOUR TIME- IT GOES QUICK

Once I saw lots of smiling pictures and got a few good letters, I have to admit………… IT WAS AWESOME!!!!  Having only one kid home? The easy one?  Can this be real?  If you have siblings still at home, use the opportunity to do fun things with them.  They’ve never had the chance to live at home without their older brother or sister so although they miss the companionship, you will not miss the fighting!  It’s so nice to have that special time with just them.  If you have an only child, live it up!  You and your hubby are alone again for the first time in  8 or 9 years.  You don’t have to swing from the chandeliers, but you can go to a movie on a Sunday afternoon,  take a last minute road trip, spend 7 weeks without watching a single kid show on TV, you get the point.  It’s ok to enjoy your summer because, let me tell you, it will be over before you know it.  Your son or daughter will be home saying they’re bored within 48 hours.

 But don’t worry, it’s only 315 days until camp starts again.