Is Your Child Ready?

Below are helpful guidelines from Linda Ebner Erceg, RN, MS, PHN. Linda serves as the executive director of the Association of Camp Nurses and worked at Concordia Language Villages for more than 25 years prior to her retirement.

“Is my child ready for the Concordia Language Villages experience?” That’s an important question. Given the Language Villages’ mission, and the program that has been designed to support that mission, in order to be a happy, successful villager, your child should be able to:

  • Meet his or her own personal needs, such as getting dressed, showering, and eating;
  • Move independently from place to place; and
  • Effectively interact in our group-based and community-living environment.

These developmental markers — especially the third one — are critical to the Language Villages experience. Your child will share a bedroom with several other people and will be expected to effectively interact with others to accomplish all kinds of quests — from establishing cabin rules to creating skits and maintaining emotional resilience in our language immersion setting.

Please contact our Health Services Office if you have questions or concerns that you would like to discuss with us. We are especially concerned about youth with a mental health diagnosis. Our program may not be a good fit for some of these children.

Health Services
8630 Thorsonveien NE
Bemidji, MN 56601
Direct Line: (218) 586-8771
Fax: (218) 586-8770
E-Mail: health@cord.edu
Main Office: (800) 450-2214

Adjusting to an Immersion Setting

Villagers will find elements in our program intense, fun, perplexing, rewarding and, most of all, unique. Villagers, especially those new to the program, will be experiencing what may be an entirely new style of teaching.

Adjusting to a new situation usually takes a little time, and many of the villagers’ unquestioned assumptions about education may be challenged for the first time.

In an immersion environment, it is not always easy to recognize one’s own progress. As children, for example, we didn’t notice we were growing until the relatives, on their yearly visit, exclaimed, “My, how you have grown!” Likewise, an intense immersion program can hide the incredible amount of progress participants make until after they return home.

Being Away from Home: Tips to Help Your Child Prepare

  • Start early preparing your child for the idea of being away from home. Find out what expectations your child has, what he or she is looking forward to and what seems a little scary. Children do much better thinking about abstract issues briefly over a longer period of time.
  • Stress the positive aspects of the upcoming session and coach him or her to share fears with you, counselors, the healthcare provider and/or dean. Remember, children learn about coping skills related to separation from home through experiences such as Concordia Language Villages. Many parents have found it counterproductive to promise to bring a child home from the Villages early if the child is dissatisfied with his/her first few days in the program.
  • Practice away-from-home skills such as letter writing, talking with other caring adults, or hugging a teddy bear at night. Read books like the Summer Camp Handbook (Thurber and Malinowski, 2000). Turn off the night light at home and practice using a flashlight. Take a walk in a local park with a flashlight and listen to the sounds of the woods around you.
  • Allow time for your child to adjust to the new situation. The first letter you receive (which may have been written on the very first afternoon) may sound a little hesitant about the Village experience. We find that most villagers are quickly consumed by the activities and opportunities of the Village and forget their first- or second-day worries.
  • Send mail. Mail is delivered daily. It is very exciting for villagers to receive a letter, postcard or package from home! Please do not send food items because of serious allergy concerns of some of our villagers.

Additional ways to practice being away from home according to the American Camp Association:

After the school year ends establish new nightly routine that would be similar to camp.  If your child is use to falling asleep to music, reading a book, or being read to.  Start weaning away from these things a couple of weeks before.  Then the week before camp your child can fall asleep without these aids.

Involve your child in the packing and shopping for camp.  Packing together is a fun and exciting for your villager, and a great opportunity for you to talk to your child about what your child can expect.  Your child will have many uncertainties about going to camp.  Involving your child in packing will give your child something they can control.  It will give them a sense of ownership in the process.  

Practice being away from home.  Have your child spend a weekend at a relative’s house, or at a friend’s house and have the friend over at your house.  This is an opportunity for your child to build confidence in their ability to sleep away from home. And for your child to see what it is like to do things outside of their own routine.