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InquisitiveScouter

Parents at Summer Camp - Request Your Input on the Message

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Scouters,

We are still planning for Summer Camp.  Here is the info I send out to New Scout parents.  This has been well-received in the past, but it is an issue I still deal with every year.  Last year I had two egregious offenders.  I would appreciate your input on the message following...

 

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If I were the King, I would decree that no parents should go to Summer Camp the First Year :slight_smile:

But every parent knows their new Scout much better than I do, at this point, so I defer to your right as parent to make the call. If the only way we can get a Scout to participate in Summer Camp is to have a parent attend, then the parent should go. If you and your Scout decide he can accept the challenge without you, then I would encourage and recommend you to give him that space and not go.

This is a very delicate time for these young men. They are closer and closer to bridging into manhood, and many of them are just beginning to face their fear of that unknown and level of responsibility.

Separation from parents and the comfort of home for a week is a test most have not yet gone through…

In my experience, the first year of Summer Camp, after crossover, is a watershed event. When many new Scouts get that first “full taste” of what the Scouting program is for older Scouts, they choose to stop Scouting.

It will be hot, sweaty, uncomfortable, and buggy, with new and unfamiliar foods, faces, and activities. Some things they will absolutely love, but they will not be good at some of the new experiences they are going to try, and many find they cannot deal with that level of physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual discomfort. For some, it is a breeze.

The norm I have seen is that a few parents choose to go who are concerned for the health and well-being of their Scouts, and who have not yet established a level of trust in the way we do things. And that is just fine with me. Scout camp is a great place for you to either build that trust, or decide we are a bunch of incompetents who shouldn’t be allowed to take kids into the woods. Maybe one in a hundred comes to the latter conclusion. (Everyone experiences Scouting differently.)

There will be some ground rules though…

  • You are there to provide the same level of attention and help to all Scouts. If your Scout is getting “special” treatment from you, it makes the others whose parents aren’t there feel pretty down. This can contribute to serious homesickness for those whose parents are unable to attend. It has been the most prevalent issue with parents attending. One of the best compliments your Scout could get at the end of the week from his buddies would be, “I didn’t know that was your Mom/Dad!”

  • You should not (actually, must not) pack your Scout’s gear. You can review the list of gear with him at home, and watch him pack it to make sure he has what he needs, but this should be on him.

  • You will not be allowed into your Scouts’ tent to help him unpack, find any items, or otherwise deal with minor issues. He needs to struggle on his own, and seek help from his buddies. Without challenges, there is no growth. He will also have a tent mate who will probably be uncomfortable with you being there. We respect their privacy, but do conduct health and safety checks of their quarters. If you notice any issue, it is best to bring it to the attention of the Scoutmasters, and we look into it.

  • Unless there is a serious or life threatening situation, you should be pretty much hands off…in observation mode…minor issues, injuries or illnesses should be dealt with by the youth leaders giving First Aid under the supervision of the Scoutmaster Corps. If a situation needs to be elevated, we let the camp health staff take care of it. My first response to most questions or issues is, “Did you ask your Patrol Leader?” If the Patrol Leader is baffled, I ask the PL, “Did you ask the Senior Patrol Leader?” And then I follow up to make sure the issue was addressed appropriately.

  • You should take some training as an adult while you are there. Summer Camp is a great learning environment for everyone.

Hope this helps you understand our philosophy of parents at Scout Camp!

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Very well said.  Especially Point #1.  A few years ago we had some parents who were only there for their own children and it caused a large rift among both scouts and adults to the point of shouting matches.  Not a pleasant situation for anyone.  A well thought out message.

 

Dale

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Posted (edited)

I would swap out gendered words like manhood for adulthood, even though you are a boy only troop, but otherwise I agree with everything there. 
 

specifically this paragraph: This is a very delicate time for these young men. They are closer and closer to bridging into manhood, and many of them are just beginning to face their fear of that unknown and level of responsibility.

the rest is fine, but otherwise it makes it sound like bsa summer camp is only for boys, when it is no long the case. The later bits about stay out of his tent are not a problem as I assume you do not have a linked girls troop. 

Edited by malraux

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You already know how this worked in preventing "egregious offenders" before, so you know what to expect in the future (plus some other curve ball yet to be seen). Letters like these only get you so far. But  if you're asking for revisions, I suggest one:

Write less. (And now I will proceed to waste your time by writing more :) )

Look at every sentence. Scratch anything that excuses your behavior or tries to empathize with a parent's misbehavior. Don't waste time justifying your actions. This is your troop's culture, it needs no excuse. For example, your last point, I would rephrase: "Parents, new or  returning, are expected to attend any adult training that the camp makes available."

you have about 50% deadwood or more in those instructions. Get rid of it, and you'll do just as well.

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27 minutes ago, eagle90 said:

Very well said.  Especially Point #1.  A few years ago we had some parents who were only there for their own children and it caused a large rift among both scouts and adults to the point of shouting matches.  Not a pleasant situation for anyone.  A well thought out message.

 

Dale

Thanks, Dale.  Appreciate your taking the time to read...

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17 minutes ago, malraux said:

I would swap out gendered words like manhood for adulthood, even though you are a boy only troop, but otherwise I agree with everything there. 
 

specifically this paragraph: This is a very delicate time for these young men. They are closer and closer to bridging into manhood, and many of them are just beginning to face their fear of that unknown and level of responsibility.

the rest is fine, but otherwise it makes it sound like bsa summer camp is only for boys, when it is no long the case. The later bits about stay out of his tent are not a problem as I assume you do not have a linked girls troop. 

malraux,

Thanks for the input.  I purposefully left those in.  As you surmise, we are boy only.  Will reconsider, though...

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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, qwazse said:

You already know how this worked in preventing "egregious offenders" before, so you know what to expect in the future (plus some other curve ball yet to be seen). Letters like these only get you so far. But  if you're asking for revisions, I suggest one:

Write less. (And now I will proceed to waste your time by writing more :) )

Look at every sentence. Scratch anything that excuses your behavior or tries to empathize with a parent's misbehavior. Don't waste time justifying your actions. This is your troop's culture, it needs no excuse. For example, your last point, I would rephrase: "Parents, new or  returning, are expected to attend any adult training that the camp makes available."

you have about 50% deadwood or more in those instructions. Get rid of it, and you'll do just as well.

Feedback is a gift :)

Thanks, Qwazse.  Agree.  "If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter."  Who said that?

Well, I have some corona-time now, so will revise accordingly...

Edited by InquisitiveScouter
misspelling
  • Upvote 1

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It's the hardest thing to do, but we never want to write for last year's troublesome parents.

I suspect this year's parents will be emotionally impacted by this state of emergency. Unless we in this country defy the odds, many parents will have lost (if not nearly lost) an elderly relative.

Another reason to keep it simple.

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When producing rules like this, I find the best approach is to lay out the rules in as bland a manner possible, with very little in the way of backstory or explanation.  Then at the end offer to discuss them in person should anyone have further questions.  Otherwise it can feel too much like "airing the dirty laundry". 

The unfortunate fact is that people suck at reading and keeping it clean and simple works best most of the time.

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Beyond the first line the letter should discourage parents more about attending.  

Since at least 72 hrs... the requirement to be a registered leader (CO approval, YPT et al) and submission of Health Record should be in letter.

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As the SM, I held a meeting with parents not going to camp (mostly first year parents) about how to prepare themselves and their scouts for camp and another meeting with the adults attending camp to set the guidelines for their behavior. These were relaxed meetings intended to get everyone excited for the trip. And they was laced with humorous stories of why we have guidelines.

Barry

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2 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

As the SM, I held a meeting with parents not going to camp (mostly first year parents) about how to prepare themselves and their scouts for camp and another meeting with the adults attending camp to set the guidelines for their behavior. These were relaxed meetings intended to get everyone excited for the trip. And they was laced with humorous stories of why we have guidelines.

Barry

That's a good idea, Barry.

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As SM, I don't send out anything like that.  I think sending an email like that might actually encourage MORE parents to attend.

 

The only part on email for summer camp, is a plug that any adult leader that would like to attend must speak up before a certain time.  And a push that they have to be registered and YPT.

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You should clarify that all adults attending summer camp must take Youth Protection Training. I leave it up to you to state whatever policies you feel you need to state, but I would definitely state that if you can not supply proof that you've taken the training, you will not be allowed to attend summer camp. 

I also recommend it even if they aren't going to attend, because the more you know the better things can be. 

 

Also agreed with earlier comments you can cut out some aspects. I do like that you are stressing that this is the time for a scout to grow and it is easiest to grow without someone jumping in to solve their issues. And another earlier comment about meeting with the SM ahead of time to help sooth parent's nerves. The kids normally do great all week. Maybe have a problem here or there, but generally good. Parents though have problems because they miss their kiddo. Very common. I recommend setting up a parents night and even a support group to help new parents feel validated in their concerns and how things are going for them. Share pictures of their scout having a blast during the week. State your rules about parent contact, and how it can cause a scout to get homesick if the parent calls because it can suddenly remind the scout that they don't have their parent there. But that can be best done in a meeting with the parents. Keep written notices brief as possible. 

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Posted (edited)
44 minutes ago, Buggie said:

You should clarify that all adults attending summer camp must take Youth Protection Training. I leave it up to you to state whatever policies you feel you need to state, but I would definitely state that if you can not supply proof that you've taken the training, you will not be allowed to attend summer camp. 

I also recommend it even if they aren't going to attend, because the more you know the better things can be. 

Call district and have them send a YP trainer for all the adults. Then you can have your meeting before or after. Coffee, donuts and fruit to start things positive and relaxed.

And you don' t need to wait for summer camp, your guidelines are pretty much all the time.  I ran two 20 minute parents sessions (require) each year (after each SPL election to remind them how boy run works in our troop. Of course many parents don't come after they attended a couple meetings, but the repeated policies maintain consistency in the program. 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad

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