Daily Newsletter – June 27, 2019

“I consider it a good rule for letter-writing to leave unmentioned what the recipient already knows, and instead tell him something new.”

– Sigmund Freud

Good morning!

Oh, the joy of receiving a letter from your child at camp!  The celebration and smiles with their excitement!  The weight of the world on your shoulders with their struggles!  Any day now, or maybe already, some of you may begin to receive letters from your camper.  In these letters, many of you will find wonderful news, while others may read tales of woe and homesickness. 

To those receiving happy letters – hooray!  Enjoy!  

To those receiving not-so-happy letters, please know this: letters are a snapshot in time, a reflection of how the camper is feeling in that moment.  Many campers write letters during menucha (rest hour, after lunch) or at lilah tov (goodnight/bedtime), prior to “lights out.”  These quiet times of day (as well as the aruchot – meals) are when homesickness most frequently creeps up on campers.  It is in those moments that worries often surface – when campers are both 1) not as busy, and 2) more alone with their thoughts.  

Please know that the parents of the exceedingly rare camper, who walks around camp crying most of the day, will receive a phone call from a member of our Camper Care Team.  (Just for the record, there are no campers in this situation here thus far!)  Other campers use letter writing like a journal or diary, expressing thoughts or feelings of discomfort, emotions that they may not yet feel comfortable sharing with friends and/or counselors.

How might you respond to a homesick letter?  

Follow Freud’s advice!  Fill your child in on the latest news from home (that’s not SO exciting that they’ll be bummed to miss it).  Share about the squirrels in the yard that entertain you; the house that went up for sale down the block (unless that house belongs to your child’s very best friend!); a funny thing that happened at the grocery store yesterday.  Update them on their favorite sports team; send comics from the newspaper (for those of you who actually still receive newspapers!); share silly (age-appropriate) jokes that you find online. 

Send pep talks about facing difficult situations, reminding them of how awesome they have felt after they’ve overcome previous challenges – and emphasize their strengths.  Please do not comment on how terribly you miss them, how quiet the house is without them, or how the family dog sleeps by the door, depressed, waiting for them to return home! 

Also: more brief, frequent letters are definitely a much bigger hit than the occasional long letter.  Make a habit of jotting a quick email to your child several times a week.  For many campers, mail distribution is a highlight of their day.  It can be especially challenging for the camper who rarely receives mail.

What if my child isn’t writing to me?

This summer, Mondays and Thursdays are “Letter Days,” where campers drop a letter (addressed to anyone they choose) in a box on their way in to dinner.  In the event that a camper shows up at a “Letter Day” dinner without a letter, we make paper, a pen and an envelope available in that moment.  So, don’t be alarmed if you receive a letter that says, “Hi – I’m writing this to get in to dinner!”

Another strategy – this one brought to you directly from a Reich Village camper!  In conversation with this particular camper, I shared my idea of parents creating “fill in the blank” templates for the campers to mail home.  The camper “one-upped” me and pointed out that, what would be really “awesome,” would be receiving an email that listed questions with blank lines, or multiple choice answers immediately following the questions, for the camper to fill in and then send back in the mail!  Shout out to my buddy, N.T., for this fantastic suggestion!

Happy letter reading and writing!

Michelle Cades
Camper Care Specialist, Reich Village and CITs