“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
– Dr. Seuss
One of the most important things you can do in your life is to be yourself by being different. Your differences and quirks are the coolest things about you. Let’s embrace our differences to truly be our best selves!
Camp is one of the best places to completely be yourself. You are encouraged to dance silly, play crazy games, and embrace others’ quirks. When we all come together at camp, everyone’s differences in a cabin group are what make the experience so special. We all bring something unique to the table through our personalities, interests, and talents. We need to be recognizing those unique character traits and celebrating them!
Sometimes it’s easier to think that an interest or your personality is not “normal,” but really what does that even mean? We throw around the word “normal” about certain things, but who ultimately decides what is normal and not? Instead of thinking about things as not normal or different, just think of them as the unique set of traits that sets you apart from everyone else. Doesn’t that sound cool? You are different and that’s the best part about you because that means you are truly being who you are!
This Week’s #GACbeyou Challenge
Journal or share with someone else (can be a parent, sibling, or friend) your answer to this question:
This week, think about things that make you happy and that you love doing, but others may view as “interesting” or “weird.” Those are the things that make you stand out and that your friends appreciate about you. If we were all the same, how boring would life be? The things that make us different are the very things that make us stand out from the crowd and make us unique. Embrace the things that make you YOU. Celebrate your differences and keep being you!
Want to be inspired? Print out this week’s GACspiration and post it on your bathroom door or mirror (just like at GAC)!
A fun activity to get you thinking about things that make you stand out from the crowd is creating an acrostic with your name! To create an acrostic, write out your name with one letter being on each line of a piece of paper. Next to each letter, write out a character trait or something you enjoy doing that sets you apart from others that starts with that same letter. Here is an example for Henry (the dog):
Hairy Energetic Nurturing Regal Young at heart
Have fun creating your acrostic! Feel free to share them on social media and tag us using #GACbeyou!
If you were to ask me the most important thing parents can provide their children, camp counselors can provide campers, and teachers can provide students, I can sum it up with one word: Connection. -Audrey “Sunshine” Monke
Building a relationship and connecting with kids—while also helping them learn to connect with each other and form friendships—is the most important experience we can provide our kids to inoculate them against the inevitable setbacks they will face in life.
Here are some simple ideas from GAC for boosting family connections.
One-on-One Check Ins
On our counselor job description, one of their duties is to “check in with each camper, every day.” We call these check-in meetings “One-on-Ones.” Counselors ask campers specific, open-ended questions to elicit how campers are feeling. The counselors ask about their friendships, activities, how much they’re missing home, what’s going well, and if they need help with anything.
These are individual conversations, out of earshot of other kids, that last anywhere from two to five minutes. The campers get accustomed to the check-ins, so they’re not surprised when their counselor starts chatting with them.
As a simple way to deepen your connection with your kids, and know how you can best support them, try having at least one daily one-on-one chat with each of them, modeled after what camp counselors do:
Turn off or put away your phone (and have them put theirs away, too).
Stop doing everything else (cooking, looking at a magazine, etc.).
Give your child your full attention (eye contact, body turned toward them, not thinking about other things).
Ask them a few open-ended questions. “Tell me about the best part of your day” is an easy place to start.
Your one-on-one chats can be anytime. You can make it a daily ritual over an after-school snack, while sharing a hot drink, or while tucking them in at bedtime, but that small, concerted daily investment of time will lead to a closer connection between you and your kids.
If your kids are already teens, know that the best way to have one-on-one chats is to be open to whenever they initiate the talk with you rather than forcing them to be on your schedule. When they talk, drop everything else you’re doing, focus on them, and listen!
A highlight of each day at camp is our evening campfire. Gathered around the fire, counselors lead a daily sharing practice. Campers remember these conversations fondly and the evening campfires are many campers’ and staff members’ favorite camp memories.
Find a time each day – dinner or bedtime are often good times to set up a consistent sharing practice – to spend just a few minutes sharing with each other.
The only rules for your daily sharing are that one person speaks at a time and everyone else listens to the person speaking. Your kids may need a few reminders, as listening attentively is a skill most of us need to work on!
Your kids (especially if they are preteens or teenagers) may balk when you bring up the idea of daily sharing and do it for the first time. Stay strong. They will eventually learn to appreciate your daily sharing practice. Even if they continue balking, don’t stop. Even if they don’t show it on the outside, they will eventually come to appreciate a time each day when caring people listen to what they have to say.
Here are a few daily sharing ideas:
“Highs & Lows” or “Roses & Thorns”
This is a simple and well-known sharing practice where each family member shares something good that happened in their day (a high) and something bad (a low). Sharing often leads to stories and discussion about different events — the side track conversations are good, so let those happen! There are also additions you can add. At camp, we often do High, Low, and Hero, where each camper shares their high and low as well as someone who was kind to them or a “hero” that day. Another twist on this activity is called “Rose, Thorn and Leaf.” The rose is the high, the thorn is the low, and the leaf is something you’re looking forward to.
Three Good Things
Each person shares three good things that happened in their day or three things they are grateful for. This gratitude exercise (when journaled) has been proven to reduce depression symptoms. While your sharing conversation won’t be written down (unless you choose to do so), it can still bring a positive focus to your sharing. Ideally, because everyone anticipates the daily sharing, everyone will be more aware of and looking out for the positive things that happen every day.
Kindness Sunshine loves the idea of sharing something each person did that was kind or something kind someone else did for you. Focusing on kindness is incredibly important in our increasingly unkind-seeming world.
Questions are a great way to connect with each other and get conversations started.
Here are a few to get you started (from the Questions for Connection GAC counselors use):
Sticky Note Compliment
At GAC, we focus on campers’ strengths and encourage them to think about building upon their strengths. Often as parents we spend a lot of time managing our children or helping them with things they are not good at. A great way to connect and make your child feel great is to leave an encouraging note on your child’s bathroom mirror, on their pillow, or in their lunch box. Tell your child something you really appreciate about them and something that’s an inner quality or strength.
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