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Weekender

Letters FROM Home

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This last year we got our first significant crop of new boys in a couple years. Unfortunately we were a bit under prepared for home-sickness. One thought I wanted to share in case you have the same potential in your troop is this.

 

Have the parents of the potential home-sickness sufferers write 5-8 letters...one for each day you are going to be gone and give them to one of the adults going to camp. Have the letters given to the boy during daily mail call. I don't recommend having them mail the letters because they could get lost or be late.

 

I'm sure many of you already thought of this but it never hurts to share when inspriation hits. Or was it the Hail?(This message has been edited by Weekender)

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Weekender,

Excellent idea. There are a couple of parents in my Troop that do that every year. I like the idea especially for the 1st Year Scouts,

 

Ed Mori

Scoutmaster

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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i personally don't like the idea of sending letters to the scout. I work in a health lodge in the summer or (the homesick hangout) as know affectionatly by the staff. I feel and maybe i'm wrong when a socut gets a letter he gets homesick(or even more so). Especially if he can call home. The camp policy is that the parents drop off the scout and then can not go past the check-in area. This way they leave and don't stay too long and let the scouts change their mind.

 

Any comments pm me.

 

-Jeff

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Homesickness is a real issue. Responses vary by Scout.

 

When I was an assistant camp director, I generally didn't allow Scouts (or staff) to call home. This was a tenant I learned at camp school. I made only one exception for a camper. We had a first year camper who had a single mom. Apparently his Dad, when the parents divorced charged the boy with "taking care of his mother." Well, by the time we made it to Tuesday, the kid was worried sick about her. I talked to him and could see that he wasn't home-sick, but was afraid of Mom living on her own. I let him call and she assured him that she was perfectly fine, but that she missed him. She also assured him that she could make it through until Saturday.

 

The kid was much relieved and stayed, happily, for the rest of the week.

 

I also experienced a new Scoutmaster who bought $5.00 phone cards for each of her first-year campers. That was the only time I've seen 6 of 10 or so Scouts go home during the week. We tend to lose them forever when that happens. Phone cards! Jeez.

 

Oh --

 

I almost forgot the point I was going to make. One year, when I was a 14 year old staff member (camp director had hired me as handicrafts director. The rule hounds know he shouldn't have done that, but he did.,) the rest of my family made a trip to New Jersey to visit a much loved relative. They wrote me a letter while they were on the trip, giving me details of the trip and telling me how much they wished I was there. The effect had (probably) the exact opposite they wanted. I was devastated and felt that I had betrayed my family by not going.

 

Homesickness is a strange beast. I'm not saying that letters from parents at summer camp are a bad idea. Just make sure the parent knows the right kinds of things to say in such letters and that the kid feels as comfortable as possible with being away from house and home for a week.

 

There are others on this forum who are far more expert at explaining how to do that than I am. I have no children of my own and only my own experience to go on.

 

DS

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Boys always react different ways to letters from home and phone calls home. I know that when I was a scout at summer camp that I called home generally twice during the week. I would call to tell my parents how I was doing and describe my week thus far. I know that I would get a little homesick but the call only made me feel better and reassured me that I would make it through the week. Are camp chaplain who deals with homesick kids at all hours of the night would persuade the kids to spend 24 more hours in camp and if they wanted to after that they could call their parents and ask them to pick them up. Amazingly it was rare for the boy to still want to go home after that. After all, most kids seem to get homesick after the first day before they even get to spend time at camp and have any real fun. Whatever strategy works best for you than go for it. I think a general rule is the longer you get them to stay the less homesick they get.

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My first reaction was that the letters were a good idea. In most cases. they probably are. I think phone calls are a BAD idea. I grew up in the generation where dad went off to work and mom stayed home all day. When I was 5, my grandmother was dying from cancer and my parents took regular weekend trips out of town to be with her. We kids got sent to stay the weekend with relatives or friends of my parents. That is what got me started with homesickness. As we got older and started having sleepovers with friends, my brother had no problems but I paniced everytime and had to come home. I was insecure and needed the familiarity of home and family. We had a huge church camp in our state that kids began going to when they hit Jr. High. I packed up and went and spent most of the week on my bunk "sick". There was a wonderful man in our church who server as our cabin leader that year who took pity on me and worked with me. He never offered to let me call home. We went to camp by bus on Monday morning and returned home on Saturday afternoon. Usually, there was a car or two that would go back home on Wednesday. He talked to me about sticking it out until a car went home. I did. When Wednesday rolled around, he said that since I had stuck it out that long, why not try to make it the rest of the week. I did. He was a school principal and knew how to deal with kids. It helped that my brother was there too and stayed by my side 90% of the time. While I would still have a little homesickness for a year or two after that, that experience was the turning point for me. Had he allowed me to call home, I'm sure I could have convinced my parents to come get me. While that particular week in camp was pretty much of a lost cause for making good memories, it paved the way for many years of good camp memories to follow. A carefully worded letter telling the camper how proud you are of them and how much fun you want them to have is fine. Keep them away from the phones though.

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True story. One of my ASM's enjoyed being a Provisional Scoutmaster for a week out at summer camp each year. Several years ago midweek, a Scout asked, bugged, and then begged to call his Mom. He said that there was something he wanted her to bring him from home. He finally relented, and allowed the Scout to use the one public phone down by the admin building. After about an hour, the Scout didn't return to the campsite. He checked around, but couldn't find him, so he had the Camp execute a "Blue Dog" alert campwide. Still no Scout. He decided he needed to alert the Mom (single parent), and he called her at home. She answers, and is giving the alarming news. She took it better than expected, as she tells my friend that her son was at home lying on the floor watching television.

 

sst3rd

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A very wise SM who I trained under many moons ago taught me that homesickness was brought on three things, either individually or in combination. The longer I'm in scouting the truer his words become.

 

The three things that I learned cause homesickness are...lack of sleep, hunger, boredom.

I have learned that if you keep them fed, keep them busy and get them to bed at a reasonable hour, you won't have problems with homesickness. At least that has been my experience.

 

Bob White

 

(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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Bob - You are right on the mark, especially the boredom issue. KEEP THEM BUSY! Years ago we had a camp nurse who was the sweetest old lady there ever was - she was everyone's Grandma. But she babied the homesick kids, letting them sleep in the health lodge and spend their days there with her. She was full to capacity! An old crusty Commissioner finally took things into his own hands, routed them all out of sick bay, got them to MB classes, instructionals, etc. and the homesickness ended rather quickly. Kind of a tough love situation, but it works.

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I tend to agree with limitation (better yet ban) on phone calls home but it becomes difficult for me to enforce (as SM) when all of my ASMs bring cell phones and talk to family & business repeatedly during the day and the families who follow their sons up to camp and happen to appear on a daily basis in the boys camp site.

 

As usual, handling the boys is the easy part. The parents, that is another story.

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Acco40 -- ya got that right. The kids aren't the problem, it's usually the parents.

 

The story comes to mind . . . Okay, I'll admit that I was one of the first Reagan Scholars at Eureka College. If you'd like to check that out, go to www.ec.edu and look up the Reagan Scholarship program. It was based on leadership and I got it because of my youth involvement in Scouting.

 

My point is that I've developed the story telling style of my buddy Ronald Reagan. I can't help it, but that's why you have a page down button.

 

I was assistant camp director and one of the parents wanted to go check up on his son who was on the first-year camper outpost evening. I said sure, and off we went. I should have asked more questions. I also should have asked for directions to the outpost camp site. I had a pretty good idea where we were going, but I wasn't sure.

 

Anywho-- this Dad and I drove to the road that lead to the general area of the camp-out. We drove as far as we could and started going cross-country. As we plowed through the brush, he explained to me that he was an off-duty DNR officer and had heard that there were going to be thuunderstorms that evening. Warning bells went off in my head, but I was a 23 year old D.E. and led him in the general direction of the camping area. At one point he turned to me (actually, now that I think about it HE was leading me,) and said, "We're getting close. I smell smoke."

 

I pointed at him with my freshly lit cigarette. "Are you sure it isn't this smoke?"

 

He said, "No. I smell wood smoke."

 

I can assure you that the cigarette was out and the butt in my pocket before we found the campsite a half hour later.

 

What the DNR guy did shocked me and really ticked me off. When we found the campsite -- there was no campfire, by the way -- he grabbed his son by the shoulders and shouted out in a loud voice, "There's a severe thunderstorm on the way. Make sure your tents are pitched tight and don't be afraid!"

 

It was a long walk back to the main camp with a bunch of (it turned out unnecessarily terrified) first year Scouts who were more than perpared to weather the thunderstorm.

 

I walked with the terrified boys. It was another long walk, in the rain and alone, to retrieve my car.

 

I don't blame the boys for being afraid. But we had weather radios and there's a reason the BSA requires letters on file with the sherriff, etc. Those guys come out and warn us to seek shelter when the weather is really going to be bad. Then we take ever option available to make sure everyone is safe.

 

This guy just listened to his weatherman. I blame myself in part for not asking more questions before I led him out.

 

DS

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Tried that twice, it only increased homesickness. In fact, boys that had gotten over the mid week hump crashed and burn on the last day of camp when letters from home arrived... Those two boys ended up quiting scouts... why...reason given...camp was toohard...interpretation...to emotionally hard.

 

 

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Excellent point. Most kids that go home mid-week from summer camp never quite muster the courage to face their buddies at the next regular troop meeting. I have been known to point that out to a Scout as one of my last aces. It usually works, and then I take the kid fishing.

 

I rember my first year at Scout camp. They used to have parent's night on Wednesday night (the camp is close to town) and then the parents would leave. I think the logic was that if the kids could see their parents mid-week, they would have the strength to last until Saturday. For me it had the opposite effect. Seeing them made me miss them. And that night it rained. Hard rain. We got soaked.

 

The next morning I was wet, miserable, and just wanted to go home. I saw two staff members crossing the parking lot, arms hooked at the elbows, singing, and jumping in puddles.

 

I joined them. It was fun!

 

My parents ended up having to drag me out of there come Saturday!

 

DS

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I tell parents, especially first-year parents, that if they are going to send mail, cards are preferable to letters. Humerous cards can lift a boy's spirits without bringing on homesickness or making it worse. The message is key; don't send messages like "we miss you", "wish we could be there with you". Things like "we're looking forward to hearing about all the wonderful things you did at camp when you get home" or "make me something at the craft center" work better.

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