You might find this rather odd, but today we're going to tell you about some of the families we didn't take with us on summer camp. Don't worry, we will report back fully on how the summer camps have gone at the end of the summer, when we're back from our log cabin. In the meantime, I think this story will show you something of how seriously we prepare our families for the intense experience of the camp, and just how seriously they take it all.
As we prepared for our summer camps we discussed our plans with the parents in our group. We have a number of new families with teenage children. Parenting teenage children can be challenging at the best of times, but it can be particularly difficult for parents who grew up in orphanages. A number of them said that we shouldn't take their children anywhere because they don't know how to behave and could disgrace us all. Other parents who had been part of our group for longer voiced opionions which we, as professionals, found surprising.
"I know I could persuade these parents to trust us and risk coming on camp, but I would feel that I had to be responsible and control their children, so that nothing really did happen to them, and so the parents weren't disappointed. But I don't take part in this programme so that other parents can keep hold of their illusions about their relationship with their children without being prepared to find out more about their children and to change themselves. So, I could agree to going on a smaller trip, so that the parents can get to trust their relationship with their child without my help."
"I realise that you have to go on summer camp as a family "ready for battle". I mean you have to understand why you are there and what you want to change about your relationship with your child. I started with short trips and I remember how difficult it was for me. So let's start at the beginning again. I'm ready to help the new families."
With this feedback, we decided to plan a day out not far from the city. Not all our families were so ready to adapt to the needs and capabilities of the new families, and some refused to come. In the end four families came with their eight teenage children.
The established families helped the new ones to borrow the necessary rucksacks etc from friends of theirs. The families did a lot of the planning themselves, worked out a menu and went shopping for supplies. When it came to the outing, some of the teenagers had been away with us before and they showed the new teenagers how to look for wood for the campfire etc. The parents watched their children, some in amazement, others with delight. And so, the fact that the children could be responsible became obvious to their parents. They spontaneously went up and hugged their children, and praised them for being so hands-on and so helpful. In our programme we call this teaching through experience.
During the outing we led a discussion imagining life in 35 years time. Both parents and children found it hard to imagine themselves so far in the future, but the parents began to advise their children, emotionally warning them not to make the same stupid mistakes as them, telling them what was important in life and what wasn't.
It seemed like this was the first time their children had received this kind of advice from their parents and such warm attention to their future and it wore everyone out physically and emotionally. We had to add in some relaxation time. The children and their parents lay on the grass, and talked about what pictures the clouds made. This was also a first time experience for our families.
The new families thanked the other families for their support and for showing them that it was possible to have a positive relationsip with their children.
This leads us on to next year. Of course we want to be able to run our summer camps again, so that these new families can come and develop their relationships over a longer period of time if they are willing and able to. If you'd like to help us with this aim, you might like to know that, to mark International Youth Day, GlobalGiving are doubling all new recurring donations starting this week until 11.59pm (EDT) on Saturday August 12th. Regular donations are a fantastic way to help non-profit organisations like ours. They give us the confidence to plan our activities, knowing that we will be able to continue supporting our families. If you already give in this way, then we want to thank you! If you haven't thought about it before, then this is the week to start. Even a small regular donation can make a big difference.
Parent child bonding
Taking time out to relax together