Five Keys to Successful Post-Camp Conversations

As a parent, I want to know details about my children’s day – well, at least the events that are impacting them a great deal – the highs and lows. However, when I try to talk with my children, I often ask questions like “How was your day at school?” Of course, their answer is “fine,” and the conversation shuts down.

I’ve learned over time that the best conversations are natural, slow to progress and often times filled with long periods of silence.

Before you pick your child up from camp this year, I’d encourage you to think about what I believe to be five keys to great post-camp conversations:

Create an Environment for Conversations to Occur

When your child enters the car – they will be tired and excited. It’s a weird combination, I know.

Given their state of mind, it would be very easy for them to plug back into their smart phones and tell the world (minus you) about their camp experiences via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Leave their smart phone at home, and it’s especially easy since they were not allowed to bring it to camp in the first place.

While you’re at it, try to keep the radio off, or at least at a low volume. This will create a peaceful environment for a casual conversation.

Set the Tone of the Conversation Early 

Remember – It’s not an interrogation. It’s a conversation.

A lot has gone on in their lives in the last week at camp. As parents, we can’t expect them to have processed all that has occurred. Don’t go into the car ride home with the expectation of having all your questions answered. Look at the car ride as the jumping off point to many great conversations to come – over dinner, before bed or on a Saturday afternoon three weeks from now.  

The goal of the conversation home should be to have your child do 90% of the talking (if they stay awake). Please note that this doesn’t mean that they are talking 90% of the trip home – they are going to be too tired for that.  

Ask Broad Questions, Then Get Specific

Most conversations with my children come to an end because I provide them with questions that offer an easy way out – simple yes or no responses.

Ask broad questions – those that require more thought and in-depth responses. These questions also take the control from your hands and place it in your child’s. The information you’ll get will be far more important than facts. You’ll hear their personal feelings, opinions, or ideas about a subject.

Here are some open-ended questions you might consider asking:

  • What were the high and low points of your week at camp? Why?
  • Tell me about your counselor.
  • Describe some of the guys/gals in your cabin.
  • What is the funniest thing that happened this week?
  • What did you get out of the session and small group times? Why is that topic important to people your age?
  • What do you think you’ll remember most about camp this year?

Keep in mind that you can always follow up with more detailed questions, but try to keep asking questions that your child cannot respond to with a simple yes or no answer.

Resist the Urge to Jump In & Control the Conversation

Remember, you sent your child to camp for them to grow deeper in their faith and create great memories. By allowing them to control the conversation, you are helping them to process the week. When your child has an opportunity to process an experience, they are better equipped to remember and learn from it.

If you are a “talker,” it is going to take every ounce of self-control in your body not to jump in and interrupt them as they lead the conversation. Try not to be thinking of the next thing you‘re going to ask them before they’ve answered the previous question. Stay focused on the details they’re sharing.

Remember - The Conversation Doesn't End When You Get Home 

Look for opportune times to continue the conversation. If you were asking open-ended questions, you have a lot of information for follow-up questions over time. Keep the conversations going – especially as it pertains to how they are applying what they’ve learned in sessions. If they are not applying the biblical truths they learned at camp, this may challenge them to return to their notes and recall the things that were discussed.

Finally, give yourself grace and don’t beat yourself up if the ride home doesn’t go as planned. There will be plenty of opportunities, just continue to look for them. The most important thing is to be intentional about having conversations that matter. 

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