Before they leave for camp:
1) Accentuate the Positive
Addressing that the child’s fears are indeed valid feelings to have is important. Once we validate the feelings, then we can change them. We can focus on the good things that the experience of going to camp will bring.
A great way to do this is to talk about the past experiences that the child has had when they were feeling anxious or scared and they had a wonderful experience. For example: “I know you are nervous, but do you remember the time you went to your classmate's birthday party? You met new people and had a wonderful time.”
You can also bridge between something that we do at camp and the similarities in an activity that the child already loves. For example: “I know you will have fun at Co-op Camp because you like to make crafts, and they spend time every day using craft supplies to make art during free time, plus in some sessions.”
2) Use Movie Magic
We can’t do this at camp, as we do our best to go technology free, but why not show your child some fun summer camp themed movies? Classic movies like The Parent Trap, Camp Rock or Meatballs will help ease the minds of a shy youth who isn’t sure what to expect.
When at camp:
1) Give Shy Kids a Quiet Place to Hang
Sometimes the most introverted of us need a moment to ourselves. At camp, if someone is needing a bit of space, we have time during the day for free time, where a youth can spend some time with a good book, or exploring the campgrounds (within camp’s boundaries, of course). There are a bunch of opportunities to grab some paper and make some art, for yourself or for a Secret Friend. If you end up at camp with me, I always have stacks of stationery and cards to write a letter, or to do some journaling too!
These activities can serve a couple of purposes. First, the time and space to can allow a youth to put their experiences to paper and let some of the emotions out. Time alone can let you process your thoughts. Also, having a quieter activity to focus on allows them to be alone, without feeling left out or lonely. If you are sitting at the craft table, odds are that someone will join you and strike up a quiet conversation. If two introverts are sitting together, even just a friendly shared smile can be enough to build a connection that will blossom into a new friendship.
2) Bring a Familiar Favourite
Bringing a familiar comfort item, be it a stuffed friend, a favourite book, their lucky t-shirt, or their trusted blue blankie, (if they are named Linus), could be the difference between feeling homesick, and having that one thing that reminds you of home and makes you feel safe. Just remember though, Co-op Camp is a technology free zone, so you cannot have your Game Boy or iPod.
3) Use Your Junior Staffers
If a camper is feeling a little shy, or overwhelmed, this is the perfect chance for a Junior Staffer to step up to the plate and make some Co-op Camp Magic happen. The Junior Staffers are the closest in age to the campers, and so they remember what it was like to be on the bus for the first time, to hear the camp rules for the first time, and to come up to the front of the group and share things for the first time. It can be easier for the Juniors, because it is still fresh in their minds and they still have a lot of firsts to come at Camp, (and in life). They can more easily relate to the shy or anxious child, because that might have been them only moments ago.