Homepage Forums Boy Scouts (Scouts BSA) Summer Camp Anxieties

This topic contains 3 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Paul 6 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #136370 Reply

    Daryl Patterson

    Summer camp is an exciting time for any person. Typically for scouts there is some uneasiness into what adventure they might experience this year that could make this year better than last. For first year scouts, this anxiety can be quite a real phenomenon. For parents or adult leaders, there is also some apprehension as to what the first year scouts will encounter or what the older scouts may try to teach the younger scouts. It’s the fear of the unknown that starts to create uneasiness in a troop and it spreads quickly.

    When the announcement came that we would be attending summer camp out of state the conversation was centered around things not related to scouting. How would we get there? What is the point for going so far away? How will we sleep? What is the food like? The adult leaders planning the excursion tend to work in a silo until final plans are made; however, those with kids with anxiety issues need all of the details because this is a very stressful time.

    A few exercises that went from our house was to identify some areas that were causing the most stress and then to see if we could identify a mitigating action to relieve this anticipated pressure. Like most campouts, sleeping outdoors for younger kids can be quite stressful. What happens if there are bugs and animals that can get in the tent or sleeping quarters? How can we manage this? We started by explaining that there are several hundred campers in the surrounding area and that the wildlife doesn’t like humans that much so they would stay away from the populated area. We explained the sleeping accommodations which also helps in reducing some of the anxieties. If tents are to be used then identifying a tent buddy early, preferably with a close friend or someone they have been wanting to hang out with, would be an easy conversation.

    The food is always questionable when going to camp as it is usually different than the normal fare that is served at home. It is also being prepared for several hundred other campers at the same time so easy and economical is the camp’s preferred choice. Some camps thrive on processed foods so there can be some healthier options or fillers provided such as vegetables and salads to the main entrees. You can watch the scouts trade for their favorite food while trading off their least favorite foods. Two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be traded for a single macaroni and cheese serving. I know most camps also offer the trading post for other delights such as nachos, slushies, and funnel cakes (this is truly what all scouts are made from). You will also find the adult leaders negotiating the trading post as well for ice cream or the caffeinated sodas to get thru the week.

    Once this has been settled, the scout tends to start to look at what there is to do at the camp so now the decision of merit badges comes in to play. Depending on your scout’s enthusiasm or rank, this can be a very busy time in trying to get the fundamentals out of the way or let them experience more entertaining classes for the summer camp. Rifle shooting and wilderness survival seems like the most preferred higher adventure merit badges. While environmental science and personal management seem to be the more academic classes to do while at summer camp. First class emphasis classes along with the arts and crafts are also good initial merit badges to take. My son is a great swimmer so he chose to taking swimming merit badge the first year; however, taking the BSA swim test seems like it is up to interpretation by many within the group as my son passed the swim test three different times this year, but under three different requirements. To clarify, it is a 100-meter swim of which 75 meters is using the freestyle or forward motion strokes and the last 25 meters is an intermediate backstroke. This is followed by float option to ensure you can float on the water. Most troops try to do this before going to summer camp but sometimes they have to take the swimming test over when at camp as the elevation and or water conditions are different than what was previously tested.

    Finally, the day comes when you’re a week out from traveling and everyone is starting to pack their backpacks and or starting to check their camping checklist. This also adds to some fears of which pocket is the flashlight going into and where can I put my pocket knives so I can still get thru the airport security.

    Parents and adult leaders start going thru their plans and whom can take extra bulk material if they are driving and the adult scoutmasters start setting expectations for the groups and start passing this down to the scout SPL. Among all the best planning a plan needs to be worked and reworked continuously. If there is a big troop, this takes communication and patience; if it is a smaller troop, then make sure the adult leaders that are helping have time to voice their opinions and make sure the scouts that will be attending, especially those with anxiety issues, are informed. Sometimes including the parents helps in the decision process as they have a vested interest to ensure their son/daughter has the best time possible. This is how we planned our summer scouting trip and it was a huge success.

  • #163988 Reply

    Jeff Adamson

    Interesting points you’ve brought up. Most of our boys have gone on Troop camp outs before Summer camp so they all had experience in tent camping. After our summer’s summer camp experience that you can read about here

    Your points about food and what to bring are very valid. I’d honestly suggest bringing a few snacks or what not that can be stored in cars or somewhere other than the tents. Just encase you get that one kid who won’t eat anything. Although the trading post’s normally have lost of sugar. Kids may need a protein bar or something that’s not pure sugar.

    One thing I may mention is that to help with anxiety for the leaders would be to talk to the parents and find out if any of the boys have problems with disruption of their normal schedule, and if they have had homesickness before. It’s good to know who you should be watching out for before camp and you get a surprise homesick kid. It may even be a good idea for those kids parents to come as leaders to the summer camp. If they can.

    Also making sure all the leaders have phone numbers of all the parents is a good thing. Many kids don’t remember their parents number, and almost no one knows work numbers and what not.

  • #165465 Reply


    We practice a post office routine, where parents send letters to their scouts with us on the trip and we deliver them on the second, fourth and final day of the trip. Money for any souvenir shops or canteens is always welcome. We strongly discourage them from putting “wish you were here” or “can’t wait till you get home” type messages in the letters, as these almost always result in the scout getting homesick. “So proud of you” and “hope you learn some really cool new skills” messages tend to motivate the scouts.

  • #167145 Reply


    It is typically only 1 month or so after they bridge from Cub Scouts that we expect them to go off and live for a whole week in a tent away from “mommy & daddy”. It’s a huge culture shock.

    While “the Program” provides a transitional phase from Cubs to Boy Scouts (WEBELOS), I don’t think there are many WEBELOS dens that actually take the boys off and camp without their parents going along.

    What my troop does is dedicate our April camping trip as an “orientation” camping trip for new scouts. We camp close to home so they don’t feel the anxiety of being far away. We also DISCOURAGE parents from attending unless they feel their son “needs” them there. We want the boys to take that step away from “mommy and daddy” and build their confidence in standing on their own and interacting with the new Scoutmaster & SPL.

    We have the older boys teach Axe Yard (Toten’ Chip) and Fire Building (Firem’n Chit) to get these BSA basics out of the way, but also allows the older & younger boys to work together with the older guys teaching the younger ones. They build that feeling of Scouting brotherhood. It works out great and really helps take away the “fear” of going away for Summer Camp.

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