How do I find out more about O-AT-KA if we are considering camp for the first time?
The best way to become familiar with Camp O-AT-KA is to visit during the season. You can call the Camp office to make arrangements for a tour. If possible, families interested in camp should visit the summer prior to their son’s first anticipated season. It is also possible to visit O-AT-KA before and after the season, although there is no substitute for seeing camp when the program is underway. Both the Summer Director and Executive Director are always happy to answer any questions about our informational materials. You can also arrange for an Open House with a personal visit from the Summer Director or another member of the staff who can give you a more in depth idea about camp and answer any questions in your own home.
What is the best age to send my son to overnight camp?
The “right” age can vary greatly among boys. In our experience, one of the best indicators is the attitude of your son. If he is expressing interest and says he is ready, then he is probably right. We will accept campers as young as age 8, but most boys begin Camp O-AT-KA at age 9 or even 10. We view the opportunity to have your son at camp as an investment and hope that once he has experienced a summer at Camp O-AT-KA, he will return for countless summers thereafter.
How can I best prepare my son for his first experience away from home?
In our experience, we have found that sending your child away to camp is harder on the parents than the children. Summer camp is a gift you are giving your child to give him an opportunity to develop coping skills on his own, build independence and confidence, self reliance and social skills that he will use throughout his life. A few tips we have found to be helpful include: involving your son in the decision to spend time at camp, give his as much control over the process of preparing for camp, talking about what to anticipate at camp, meeting staff or other campers before the opening day of camp when possible, and using a calendar to show the length of time your son will be away. We find most importantly that parents need to be careful in expressing their own anxieties or ambivalence to their son. Do not make a “pick up plan” or any deal with your son that you will bring him home if he does not like camp. This sends the message that you as the parent do not have confidence in your son’s ability to be on his own, and sets an expectation in his mind that he won’t like camp before he ever tries it.
We also know from research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics Council that what parents say beforehand is critical. Talking about homesickness does not cause it, but how a child is prepared to be away from home can make a significant difference. The American Camping Association publishes a DVD-CD set titled “The Secret Ingredients of Summer Camp Success” that can be helpful for parents and campers who will be separated for the first time. Also know that if your son is consistently homesick, our staff will contact you and consult you in how we are helping your son through this transition.