The post-camp blues are a well-documented phenomenon. Camp is filled with joy, adventure, and new friendships, so it is no surprise that the end of camp typically leaves campers feeling a sense of sadness and loss.
The good news for campers is that camp staff have innate empathy and understanding, and are well-equipped to provide the necessary support and guidance to help navigate the bittersweet emotions of the end of camp. With a handful of intentional strategies, camp staff can help campers reduce their post-camp blues, transition back to their everyday lives smoothly, and wrap up camp with a sense of fulfillment, gratitude, and excitement.
One simple way to help campers process their emotions as the end of camp approaches is to lead activities that focus on reflection. When you encourage campers to look back on their favorite camp moments, experiences, and friendships they’ve made, you can create closure and appreciation and alleviate some of the post-camp blues.
- Have campers create a camp memories journal where they can write about their favorite camp moments.
- Organize a group discussion where campers can share what they’ve written. Sharing should be optional, in case some campers would prefer to keep their journals private.
- An activity that requires early planning is to have campers write letters to themselves on the first day of camp, and then read them as camp ends. This is a great way to remind them of how far they’ve come since day one.
Organize a closing ceremony before the post-camp blues kick in
Camps are known for their unique traditions, one of which can be a special closing ceremony. The goal is to celebrate the campers’ achievements and highlight the incredible memories they’ve created together. This ceremony can reduce post-camp blues and allow campers to share their experiences and emotions with their peers and counselors.
- Create and present a slide show of camp photos to present on the final day of camp. Show the photos in chronological order, so they can see the summer unfold just as they experienced it.
- Present each camper with a superlative along the lines of high school yearbooks. Who is most likely to become a camp director? Who will try to make s’mores over an indoor fireplace? Who will record an album full of campfire songs? This is a fun way to celebrate each camper’s unique contribution to camp. Write the awards on pieces of paper so campers have something tangible to take home.
Facilitate camper-led discussions
Build on the safe and supportive environment you create at camp with small group discussions about the end of summer. Encourage campers to share their thoughts, concerns, and highlights of their camp experience. This open dialogue can help them process their emotions and find comfort in knowing others feel the same way.
- When you host these conversations, make sure to come with prompts that will spark meaningful discussions, such as “What are some valuable life lessons you’ll take away from camp?” or “How has camp impacted your personal growth?”
- Not all campers will feel comfortable speaking up, so get creative with how you encourage reflection. Hang signs around camp where memorable activities have taken place and hang a pen near each one. Write about each activity and why it was special. Campers can sign their names or add a check mark if they agree. On the last day, tally up all the signatures to show how wide-ranging these feelings are.
Foster lasting connections to offset post-camp blues
Camp friends are forever friends, and staying in touch with them is an ideal way to hold off the blues. Encourage campers to exchange contact information with their newfound friends. Provide opportunities for them to stay connected through social media, email, or even organized reunions. These connections ensure that campers have a support system beyond the camp environment, and can ease their transition back home.
- Create a post-camp calendar with bi-weekly email topics for campers to write about. It’s easier for them to keep in touch if they have something specific to write about. You can send email reminders about the topic of the month or specific questions they should answer in emails to each other.
- Facilitate virtual meet-ups after camp. Zoom campfires were a popular innovation at the start of the pandemic and can bring the warm feelings of camp home, even without a fire. Use these instructions to turn on the right Zoom settings for group singing.
Create a memory keepsake
Help campers create or find a personalized memory keepsake that captures their favorite moments. This could be an arts and crafts project, a drawing of their favorite spot at camp, or a little bottle of lake water. This tangible reminder of their camp experience is something they can hold onto all year long.
- Set aside time for campers to create or gather their keepsake.
- Host a sharing session where campers can show their keepsakes and share what they mean to them.
- If you don’t want campers to take an object from camp, an alternative activity is to create a time capsule that you can open at a later date and fill it with camp keepsakes. You can have a member of year-round staff record a video of the opening ceremony in winter, or even wait until the first day of camp next summer.
Provide resources for ongoing engagement
Just because summer ends, that doesn’t mean the feeling of camp has to. You can offer campers resources and recommendations to stay engaged in activities related to their camp experience after camp ends. This can include local clubs, workshops, or online communities where they can pursue their interests and hobbies.
- Compile a list of these resources related to camp activities or interests, and share it with campers and their families.
- Recommend books, podcasts, or online resources that align with campers’ interests, to provide them with additional avenues for exploration and learning.
Stay connected through post-camp communication
The moment campers watch their best friends leave camp might be the hardest of them all. Acknowledge that saying goodbye can be challenging and provide emotional support during the departure process. After the final bus departs, maintain open lines of communication with campers and their families. Send follow-up emails or newsletters that share highlights, upcoming events, and opportunities for campers to stay engaged with the camp community. When you keep campers connected, it helps them feel a sense of belonging even when physically apart.
Create a camp newsletter or blog that is shared via email or mailed to campers’ homes. Include updates about upcoming events, camper spotlights, and stories from the camp experience. This provides a tangible connection to camp and allows campers to stay engaged without reliance on social media.
The end of a summer at camp will always be hard, but camp staff can embrace it through thoughtful activities, meaningful discussions, and ongoing support. You guide your campers to process their emotions, foster lasting connections, and hold tightly to the memories they’ve created.