How to Remind Your Parents It’s Safe to Come to Camp

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They say it takes 21 days to form a habit.  You need to commit to reinforcing behaviors for 3 weeks before it becomes, if not 2nd nature, significantly less effort to continue.  Normally, that means gritting your teeth and not hitting the snooze button or finding that inner Tony Little that you never knew existed and dragging your corpse to the 21st century version of a torture device that passes itself off as “good for you”.  

However, that scythe swings both ways. If you become accustomed to behaviors, at a certain point it’s difficult to STOP doing them. If you persist in eating a bag of doughnuts before bed, at a certain point it becomes difficult to stop (or put on pants). Pavlov was conditioned to give his dog a treat every time he heard a metronome (of course, he tells the story differently, wouldn’t you?). Even thermodynamics* tell us that if you aren’t moving, you are likely to stay that way.

“Make 2021 everything that 2020 didn’t get to be!”

So, it’s no wonder that parents, after more than a year of watchful vigilance to keep themselves and their kids protected, might need a nudge to break out of the rut they’re in and feel ok about sending their kids back to camp.  While in years past, perhaps all you had to do was let people know registration was open and voila, this year might require additional steps to ensure that everyone knows that camp can and will be a safe place this summer.  This title of this post is purposeful: you don’t need to TELL people camp is safe so much as you need REMIND them.  They are used to believing that camp is the best way their kids can spend the summer, your job is to remind of that belief.  Make them believe again!  Now, before I get to the strategies, I want to make a something clear: 

I do not advocate anything other than telling the truth.  You should not be telling your families that you have procedures in place if, in fact, you do not.  Be honest.  This entire discussion assumes that your camp is, in fact, a safe place.  Local guidelines differ so I am not getting into what precautions should be taken, that’s a different (and much more nuanced) conversation.   

Here are 4 ways to remind your parents that it’s safe to come to camp: 

#1 – REMIND THEM OF YOUR PRECAUTIONS (AND THAT THEY ARE NOT ACTUALLY YOURS) 

There is a subsection of parents that will never believe it is safe to leave the house again.  Accept it, you’re never going to win them over.  Rick Astley may disagree with me, but you need to let them go.  The rest of your families want to get back to some semblance of normal life, but they need to have reasons why this summer is different from last (especially if you didn’t run camp last year).   

  • DO: Talk about the policies and procedures you have in place and how they meet or exceed the recommendations from your local health district.
  • DON’T: Be vague or speak in generalities. Make sure your policies can be explained clearly and concisely by any staff that will interact parents. If your staff can’t articulate it clearly, your parents will have doubts about its implementation (and they’re doubts are likely well-founded).

#2 – REMIND THEM YOU HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE SHOULD COVID-19 MAKE AN APPEARANCE AT CAMP 

Having a case of COVID-19 at camp is not the end of life as we know it and it should not be treated as such.  While the likelihood of children contracting it and spreading it is far lower than in adults (especially the elderly and those with comorbidities), it is possible that, even with all proper precautions in place, a camper may contract COVID-19.  Parents know this already though.  You don’t need to tell them.  What you need to tell them is what you are going to do about it.   

  • DO: Outline the steps you will take, including communication procedures, if and when you have a case of COVID-19 at camp.
  • DON’T: Treat the topic as taboo or act as if it won’t happen. Acting like you are hiding something is a surefire way to ensure that parents believe you are.

#3 – REMIND THEM THAT YOU AREN’T THE ONLY ONE SAYING IT’S SAFE 

You might consider yourself an infectious disease expert, but I’m sorry Magruber, your parents likely don’t agree.  The good news is you don’t have to be.  You are not the only one saying that it’s safe to return to activities like camp.  Do your research and share it with your parents.  Link to it on your website.  Share it with your staff.  You don’t need to be the lone voice in the wilderness on this one.  There are lots of experts that agree with you.  Be the conduit of those voices to your families.  They’ll appreciate that you aren’t on an island here (unless your camp is, actually on an island). 

  • DO: Research the latest information and share it.
  • DON’T: Only look for people that agree with you. Deliberately search out alternative views as well and have good reasons to refute their logic if you are presented with them.

#4 – REMIND THEM WHY THEY LOVED CAMP IN THE FIRST PLACE 

If you can give them clear-eyed information to quiet their apprehensions about safety, now you have earned the platform to remind them about the transformative power of camp.  The safety discussions, while important, only get you in the door.  Now is your chance to share the passion and vision that is right in your wheelhouse.  Remember, they want to know their child is safe, but that’s not WHY they are sending them to camp.  They are sending them to camp for the kinds of experiences that can only be had at camp.   

  • DO: Share stories about camp, especially if you have some during the COVID-19 era (I can’t believe I referred to it as an era, ugh).  Be passionate, be vulnerable, be yourself! 
  • DON’T: Make it about you.  They don’t need to hear about how hard it was last year without camp (or camp during COVID).  They want to know that camp is going to be an awesome place for their kids.  The best communication doesn’t talk about you, it talks about them.   

As I mentioned before, there is a contingent of parents that you will not be able to win over, no matter what.  But that’s ok.  Frankly, those parents existed before COVID-19 and they’re not the ones you should be chasing.  There’s a whole lot more that are itching for the excuse to get their kids back to camp, so give them one.  In fact, give them lots and make 2021 everything that 2020 didn’t get to be.  Good luck! 

* – Make a hole, we’re following the science here! 

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