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In Partnership with Parents

Preparing Your Child to Thrive at Camp

Everyone who comes through our gates has unique needs. We are a better Camp and provide a better experience when we take the time to find out what those needs are, build empathy, understanding, assess resources and respond to indivual families appropriately.

Sea Gull and Seafarer are inclusive and welcoming places dedicated to serving those needs in the best way possible. Because every child/family is unique, when required, we work one-on-one with families to ensure the best possible experience for their camper and our overall Camp community. Your child’s success at Camp is our number one priority. Please reach out to Lydia Warren, Director of Camper Life at Camp Seafarer or Liz Morgan, Director of Camper Life at Camp Sea Gull if there are specific things about your child or family that we need to be aware of - anxiety, depression, mood disorders, past trauma, mental health challenges, family dynamic circumstances, ADHD, sense of self journeys, etc. 

At Camp, children learn to live independently, take personal responsibility, experience friendships, disagreements and have interactions with campers who may be different from them. Sea Gull and Seafarer are inclusive and welcoming places dedicated to serving families and campers from diverse cultures, backgrounds, faiths, journeys and perspectives - from across the country and around the world. We are also experts with a 75-year history and proven track record of balancing the needs of individual campers and the needs of our overall and collective Camp community during the summer. 

Recommended Resources: 

Some Topics to Help You Prepare Your Camper for Camp:

Feeling Unsafe vs. Feeling Uncomfortable:

Camp is a wonderful environment for kids to challenge themselves to try new things. Camp is also a place where kids from different backgrounds and lived experiences get to know each other as they share a cabin together for a week or longer. Sometimes our kids will meet someone who thinks, acts, or feels differently than they do. Sometimes it’s as simple as liking different camp activities. Sometimes it’s having different religious backgrounds. Or being from different towns or states. All these things can make a camper uncomfortable.

It is important that kids know it’s ok to be uncomfortable as they learn and experience new things. Discomfort means they are learning something new! 

It is easy to confuse being uncomfortable with being unsafe, but the difference is important. Safety is our number one priority at Camp. Our staff spends many hours during pre-summer training learning how to keep the campers safe. Help your child to understand that they are safe at camp even if they are feeling some discomfort and support your camper in identifying how they will find a caring adult who can help them when they are feeling this way. 

My camper is a little nervous about being with kids they don’t know. What do you do to make sure everyone feels included?

At Camp, building a caring community where everyone feels welcome is especially important to us. To this end, we make a significant effort to train our counselors to help campers connect with one another. We are careful in our cabin assignments to put new campers and campers who come without a cabinmate request into cabin groups where they will make friends. The first days of camp are carefully planned to help new campers quickly make friends and learn their way around our camp. There are also lots of fun activities and games to help campers find common interests and effortless ways to connect! 

Read this article on Camper Friendships here

My camper is worried about what they will eat at Camp. What kind of food is served and what happens if they don’t like something?

At Camp Sea Gull and Seafarer, we place tremendous emphasis on the health and safety of our community, which includes nutrition. We know and believe when our Camp family is well-nourished, they will thrive, and the quality of their experience is enhanced.

We partner with FLIK for our Dining Program because of their expertise, philosophy, and concept: Eat. Share. Connect. Through wholesome meals, dietary options and environmentally conscious programming, the whole community is better equipped to live a happy, healthy life.

Meals in the Dining Hall are served family-style with campers eating with their cabinmates and counselors.  Some favorites include Sunday fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls, pizza and pasta and tacos on Tuesdays!  Salads and vegetables are served with all meals, as well as fruit.  We provide a variety of food at each meal, so if there is something served that is not your child’s favorite, there are plenty of other options for them. Also, please make sure your child knows they can always tell their counselor if they feel like they are not getting enough food. 

My camper can get very anxious sometimes. How should I help them prepare?

Help prepare your child by explaining that everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. In fact, it is typical for every camper to have moments of anxiety at Camp as they are being introduced to new people and new experiences. You can help them reduce stress and anxiety by validating these feelings and creating a plan for these moments. Help them recognize these feelings when they come up and that anxiety can present as physical feelings, thoughts, and actions. Help give them words to communicate with their counselor when this happens and let them know it is perfectly normal to take a break from an activity and to share with others what they are feeling.  By helping your child build their toolkit of self-care, you are helping them create healthy habits that will see them into adulthood. 

Read this article from Child Mind Institute on ways to help your anxious child enjoy Camp. 

What if my child has a problem while they are at Camp?  

One of the best things about Camp is learning to live with others.  As campers learn to navigate this, there will inevitably be some type of conflict to work through.  We encourage you to talk with your camper about this. If your camper experiences sadness or has a conflict, make sure they know to go to their counselor with this. Explain what to do if something happens that hurts their feelings or what to do if they need help. Their cabin counselors, Head Counselors and the Directors are all here for them. 

Additionally, counselors, Directors and the Health Center are resources for campers when they don’t feel well physically or emotionally. The “Medical Care” and “Emotional and Physical Safety” sections of our FAQ page expand on how we support campers at Camp and how you can support your camper in preparation for Camp their time with us. Help your camper by giving them the tools to be an advocate for themself so that we can then help them to have the absolute best summer! 

Read this article from Parents Together about how to help your child advocate for themselves. 

What if my camper gets homesick?

One of the best ways to help your child with homesickness is to prepare them ahead of time. Speaking openly about homesickness before Camp helps your child understand that it is normal and natural and may help them accept it with less anxiety. What you say before Camp is as equally important as what happens at Camp.  Do not make any promises to pick them up early if they express unhappiness or unease.  Instead, have them practice writing you letters and make sure they know how to stamp and address their envelopes. This lets them know you have confidence in their ability to be away from home. 

You can also let your child know that should they experience homesickness, they can let their counselor know and they are ready and willing to help them. Staff are well trained to normalize homesickness, help them connect with other campers and support them until they have integrated into Camp. 

For further information on how to support your child in a successful transition to Camp, read:

Coping with Homesickness

New Thinking Needed to Help Kids Avoid or Cope with Homesickness

What training does Camp Staff receive?

Our staff receives a full week of training before they begin their summer. Nearly 80% of our staff participated in our CILT Program which consists of a four-week training program. CILTS learn about group management, counselor expectations, activity leadership and more. 

During our staff training week, staff learns safety protocols and procedures, age group characteristics, group management, activity training and more. Our days start early and end late as we ensure our staff have all of the information needed to create a safe and fun environment for campers.

Additionally, our leadership staff participate in and receive certification in Youth Mental Health First Aid and all of our staff are educated in social-emotional learning and character development. 

What are some things that you have seen campers be worried about that I should be sure to discuss with my camper?

Are there bathrooms near everything that I can use?

  • Camp is laid out so that there are bathrooms and water fountains accessible to the campers while they are out on activities. You can find a bathroom if you are near the dining hall, the pool or even at sailing! 

Do I have to shower in front of other people?

  • Many of our cabins are equipped with individual showers that allow campers to shower in private. Other cabins have larger showers with multiple shower heads. If you would like to shower individually, your counselor can help arrange a time for you to do so. Do not hesitate to let them know what is most comfortable for you. 

How often do we eat? What if I’m hungry in between meals?

  • Meals at Camp are FUN and nourishing! We eat at 8 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. every day. Meals are served family-style in our dining hall. Fresh fruits, vegetables and quality ingredients are used to prepare well-balanced meals that keep us all nourished and ready for activity time. 

What if I can’t sleep at night?  

  • Our days are packed full of fun and excitement, leaving most campers ready for a good night’s rest. But should you find yourself unable to sleep, your counselors live in the cabin with you, so they are there to help you anytime you need them.

Can I call home? 

  • One of the best parts of Camp is getting to be independent and grow in a safe, nurturing environment. Being away from home allows you to explore who you are, separate from your families. So, we have our campers write home to their families to share their experiences rather than make phone calls so that you can truly engage in Camp life. Of course, campers also love to receive mail, so we encourage you to write your camper often. Plus, it is also a unique and positive experience to spend time outdoors in nature while being technology free!