Jennifer “Twinkle” Buckelew is the Director of Camp Sycamore Hills’ resident camp program, Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee’s largest camp. Jennifer has a long-standing relationship with Girl Scouts, having spent six years as camp director in Greater Atlanta and the last two in Middle Tennessee. Her favorite part of camp is seeing the “twinkle” in girls’ eyes as they learn and grow into confident young women. When she is not empowering young people to aspire to their full potential, Jennifer enjoys spending time with friends and family and taking care of her animals.
Q: What should I do to prepare my daughter for being away from home for the first time?
A:With many of our campers as young as five or six, spending time away from home can seem scary. As a prospective new camper and parent, I would recommend the following practices:
· Allow your daughter to begin having sleepovers with cousins, grandparents or friends from school. Allowing your child to spend some time away from you will help her feel independent and confident that she will have a successful camp experience.
· Let her pack with you. Giving her the control over her belongings will help her feel at ease while unpacking at camp.
· Teach her essential skills prior to arriving at camp. She will feel more independent knowing that she can brush her own teeth and hair and tie her shoes.
· Talk to her about her camp concerns and direct them in a more positive way. If she worries about not knowing how to ride a horse, explain to her that she will learn. Share a similar story about yourself.
· Reassure your daughter that she will be successful at camp, and we will partner with you to make the best decisions for your daughter. Camp can be scary, but it’s fun, too. Let her have some time to learn her way around camp and meet new friends.
· Encourage your camper to talk with the counselors and share her feelings and needs.
· Pack her favorite stuffed animal.
· Remind your camper that camp will have night sounds such as animals, wind, leaves, acorns on the roof, etc.
· Remind her to write letters home and pack addressed envelopes with stamps. Send her positive letters, photos and/or care packages from home as well.
Q: What do you do if the girls get homesick?
A:Homesickness is a common occurrence at camp. Staff is trained in identifying the signs and stages of homesickness, and they know how to help the girls through their initial fear of camp. We make an effort to partner with the parents to come up with the best possible solution for their daughter. We never keep a child a camp that doesn’t want to be there, but we do want girls to discover their independence and not rely on the possibility of going home.
Q: My child is excited about camp but she is not very athletic. Will there be things she can do that she can excel in?
A:Most definitely! At Girl Scout camp we pride ourselves on having a wide variety of activities for each camper. We offer themed camps throughout the summer that focus on areas such as horses, arts, music, science and nature.
Have a question for our expert? This line is open until Friday, June 15th. Our expert will then answer the top questions and we’ll post their answers right here and on our Facebook page.