“Hello Muddah. Hello Faddah. Here I am at Camp Grenada”
Though many people may recognize these lyrics, few know much more about this rather famous song. The song, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Camp Song)”, is actually a Grammy-winning novelty song written by Alan Sherman in 1963 based on some letters he received from from his son while at camp. The song, though very funny, touches on a rather interesting aspect of summer camp – communication with home.
We live in a world of constant communication, where nearly everyone has a cell phone, Facebook account, and can text message nearly as fast as they can type. Many parents have embraced aspects of this communication revolution since it makes children more accessible to parental monitoring. How does this monitoring translate to summer camps, many of which don’t allow cell phones and limit communication with home?
Conversations with home can be a positive experience, or have negative undertones. Phone calls are an opportunity for campers to reflect on their achievements and share the highlights, enhancing the experience. Calls home might also serve as an chance to mention concerns or voice complaints. Though unfortunate, it is not uncommon for phone calls turn into negative venting sessions that send mixed or misleading messages.
The Value of Summer Camp, a previous blog topic, is based on removing children from their traditional comfort zone while presenting manageable challenges that build self-confidence, self-esteem, and leadership skills. Separation from home is an important component of a successful camp experience. The goal for parents, children, and camps alike, should be to facilitate positive communication. The most common, and often most difficult situation, is when parents and children are used to constant communication. The nature of Sail Caribbean programs doesn’t easily allow for such regular communication. Constant communication can be highly restrictive and can serve as a crutch for both children and parents. Relying on everyday communication prevents full integration in the summer camp experience. During our summer programs, students are allowed to call home either with their own cell phones or skype-internet phone service, every 7-10 days, a time line that has worked based on our experience.
What if you are very used to every day communication? How do you break away from the life line, and allow children to enjoy their experience and prevent parents from worrying constantly. For students, I recommend a somewhat forgotten item, a journal. Journals provide an excellent vehicle for students to express and manage their feelings, then look back on their experience. For parents, many programs, especially international ones, have updates that are periodically posted to the web or emailed to parents. Ask about these before program begins and follow them throughout. You can use these updates to spark conversation with students and find comfort knowing your child is happy, safe, and included in all the fun.
The greatest challenge during the program was staying entertained during the quarantine period. Not being able to leave your boat and not having a phone, which was a crutch against boredom, it was difficult at first to stay entertained.