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Friendship & Social Skills

4 Friendship Concepts to Share with Girls

In researching and planning for a talk I gave a few weeks ago about girls’ friendships, I read through some excellent resources, including these books. I also wrote this post about ways to help your ...

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Is Kindness the Secret to a Successful Life?

Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree. Marian Wright Edelman Being a considerate, kind person who thinks about others is a character trait that helps children form ...

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5 Ways to Encourage Empathy in Kids

Sometimes we need someone to simply be there. Not to fix anything, or to do anything in particular, but just to let us feel that we are cared for and supported. Brené Brown Why is ...

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Happiness Habits

“Realize that true happiness lies within you. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside. Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but ...

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7 Reasons to #optoutside

Next to unplugging, one of my favorite things to talk about is spending time outside. In fact, I believe the combination of unplugging AND spending time outside may be the answer to many of life’s ...

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How to Respond to Bad Behavior

Bad behavior from other people is an inevitable part of life. While we would love to protect our kids from every mean comment or action by another person, that is impossible. What we can – ...

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The Magic Relationship Ratio

Gretchen, Shasta, & Audrey I recorded this month’s One Simple Thing during a retreat this weekend at 1440 Multiversity I attended with my daughter, Gretchen (see video below or on Facebook). We were at Shasta Nelson‘s Frientimacy ...

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The Wisdom of High School Girls

One highlight of my summer has been meeting with our oldest female campers to discuss relationships, goals, and life. These girls have so much wisdom to share with each other and with adults. We meet ...

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Talking with Kids about Friendship

“Friendship is a life skill you need to learn, so why not start now?” Jackson, Age 9 I spent yesterday evening making friendship bracelets and talking about friendship with a group of campers. We were ...

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4 Ways to Focus on our Kids’ Strengths

One of my highlights of last week was meeting with our Junior Counselors (17-year-olds heading into their senior year of high school) and talking about their strengths. After spending a morning sharing the strengths they ...

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Ep. 40: Frientimacy with Shasta Nelson

We’re craving those few people who know us and love us no matter what. -Shasta Nelson Shasta Nelson In Episode 40, I talk with Shasta Nelson, M.Div. Shasta is a leading expert on friendship. Her ...

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Being Boss

“You have to build a life you love as if it’s your job. Because it is.” Kathleen Shannon & Emily Thompson, Being Boss When I was four years old, my pre-kindergarten teacher wrote on my ...

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Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends

I just read a fantastic book to help kids learn about friendship skills – Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends (Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore and Christine McLaughlin). The book clearly explains simple strategies ...

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My 24 Hours Unplugged

It was fitting that I finished reading The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier and Happier(Susan Pinker) just a day before participating in the National Day of Unplugging, a day when thousands ...

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What did you love when you were 13? Rediscovering Your “Authentic” Self

For my thirteenth birthday, I received a Canon AE-1 camera. And while I’ve long-since moved on to a digital SLR, I still maintain my adolescent love for photography (and my daughter is still enjoying using ...

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36 Questions to Get Closer to Someone You Love

The art of asking good questions, and listening carefully to the person’s response, is one important key to forming and maintaining positive, close relationships. Our social connections are the most important predictor of life-long happiness ...

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Book Review: Switch on Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking and Health

Leslie Seidner This is a guest post from Leslie Seidner, a writer who researches and writes about positive psychology, anxiety, and brain health. She also happens to be my sister and favorite person to talk ...

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The Four Tendencies: An Obliger’s Story

I’ve been enjoying Gretchen Rubin’s books since my oldest daughter (also named Gretchen) gave me The Happiness Project (Revised Edition): Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, ...

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3 Simple Techniques to Help Kids Make Friends

Coaching kids on their social skills is one of the most helpful things caring adults can do to positively impact children’s lives. Why are social skills so important? We need look no further than the ...

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10 Fun Ways Teachers Can Help Kids Connect with Other Kids

My oldest daughter started her first teaching job about a month ago. She’s teaching high school English to 9th and 10th graders. Less than a month into school, she has students who come hang out ...

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7 Simple Steps to Teach Kids to Introduce Themselves

Introducing yourself is much more than saying your name; it’s a way to connect with someone new by exchanging words and often, physical contact. Introducing yourself to strangers can be tricky because what you say ...

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Learning To Put My Own Oxygen Mask On First

Last week I did something unheard of during my first 32 years as a camp director. I took a full day off during the very first week of camp. On my day off, I did ...

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11 Ways to Help Kids Create REAL Connections

A 75 year longitudinal study of adult development at Harvard Medical School had two main findings. Researchers George Vaillant and Sheldon Glueck determined that “good relationships”—not wealth or accolades or privilege—“keep us happier and healthier.” ...

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Giving Kids Our Full Attention

Giving Kids our Full Attention Rapport feels good, generating the harmonious glow of being simpatico, a sense of friendliness where each person feels the other’s warmth, understanding, and genuineness. These mutual feelings likely strengthen the ...

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Focusing on the Gain not the Gap

Last week, I was listening to a podcast from one of my favorite leadership and motivational speakers (Michael Hyatt’s This is Your Life). Hyatt talked about the importance for business leaders to create an environment ...

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Five Ways to Avert Thanksgiving Disappointment

The one area of parenting where I am incredibly consistent is in my unrealistic expectations for how family together time will go, especially when we haven’t been together in a long while. I have this ...

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Quick Friendship Activities

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Ralph Waldo Emerson Earlier this year I reached out to my dear friend Tiffany, with whom I have been woefully out of touch since ...

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“SASHET”: A Connection Tool

I just returned from my favorite annual camp conference. Spending time with this group of camp owners and directors refocuses me and helps me get motivated for another summer of camp. These are the only people ...

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10 Ways to Teach Kids to Calm Down

Being able to resolve conflicts is one of the most important social skills our kids need in order to thrive in relationships and life. I’ve written a series of posts about different conflict resolution skills, ...

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10 Ways to Create a Happy & Connected Class

Part of the “magic” of camp is that from the first moment, we focus on building relationships and getting our cabin groups connected. We train our counselors to help kids develop social skills so they ...

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Play, Hygge, and other Good Ideas: A Review of The Danish Way of Parenting

I was recently talking to a friend who spent a year in Spain, and she shared with me how different it was living there. Each day, she’d see whole families walking (ambling slowly, not hurried) ...

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Hop on The Energy Bus!

One of our treasured camp traditions is reading to campers each evening at bedtime. We adopted the tradition more than a decade ago, because we realized how calming it is and how much even our ...

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The Power of Positive Words

Well, I don’t know the child that was returned to me on Saturday. It definitely wasn’t the child I dropped off two weeks earlier. The only logical explanation is that your camp is magic. Magic transformed my ...

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Helping Kids through their “Low Point”

During one of our final training sessions with counselors, we ask them to think back to their “low point” as a child or adolescent and remember what, if anything, caring adults did to help them ...

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Celebrating Strengths

What are the qualities you like best about yourself? If you’re like me, I’ll bet you haven’t thought about that question much. You may tend to focus more on the things you don’t like about ...

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7 Reasons to Get Outside

Next to unplugging, one of my favorite things to talk about is spending time outside. In fact, I believe the combination of unplugging AND spending time outside may be the answer to many of life’s ...

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Learning to Breathe

I learned to breathe a few weeks ago. Let me explain. While I’ve been breathing my whole life, I found out a few weeks ago, during a counseling session with a neuro-therapist, that I haven’t ...

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The Perils of Perfectionism

When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness — the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are ...

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Surviving and Thriving (in High School and Life)

Many kids struggle with their sense of worth and forget who they really are during high school. For high achieving kids, some get so caught up in the tests and grades that they start believing that they ...

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The Power of Compliments

I saw this video last week, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the power of compliments: Isn’t it amazing? This teacher spent just 10 minutes a day complimenting his students, and he ...

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Five (MORE) Reasons Great Parents Send Their Kids to Camp

There are so many reasons great parents choose to send their kids to summer camp. Two years ago, I shared five of them on the most popular post I’ve ever published. But now I have ...

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How Camp Helps Parents Raise Adults

“The movie Stepford Wives came to mind as I watched my students live their college life still somehow looking to the sidelines for mom or dad’s direction, protection, or intervention as if they were five, ...

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5 Ways Camp Grows Grit

“It turns out that grit predicts performance better than IQ or innate talent. Grit makes our kids productive and successful because it allows them to reach their long-term goals despite life’s inevitable setbacks. This ability ...

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5 Ways to Teach Kids to Live Life Well

As I started writing this, I realized that my title is inaccurate: “5 Ways to Live Life Well” would be more appropriate. As an adult, I still need these reminders to help me live my ...

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5 Fun 30-Minute Family Activities

With more of my kids away at school than still living at home, I have lofty ambitions for our family together time over these coming two weeks – the only time of the year when ...

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10 Surprising Things Kids Learn at Camp

I would not be the person I am today without camp. -15-year-old camper My three decades of camp experience, coupled with my own and others’ research, have shaped my long-held opinion that camp experiences benefit ...

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10 Friendship Skills Every Kid Needs

As parents and adults who work with youth, we can positively impact kids’ lives through helping them build good social skills, which are, I believe, more important than academic or athletic skills. At school, very ...

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The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy, Jon Gordon

The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy I listened to The Energy Bus as an audio book and got inspired by the 10 simple lessons that show ...

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A Happiness Boost

This morning I was on the receiving end of a telephone call that made me view my day and my life in a whole new light. The call was from my neighbor and friend who, despite a ...

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Parent Top 10

As I prepare for next month’s camp counselor training, I find myself reflecting—once again—that parents should get at least this much preparation before they start the job of raising kids. After all, just like camp ...

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5 Steps to Help Kids Resolve Conflicts

The Conflict Resolution Wheel I’ve always considered myself non-confrontational and I do my best to avoid conflict. In researching ways to teach kids conflict resolution skills, I’ve discovered that avoidance is actually a choice on ...

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One Simple Way to Increase Happiness

In two weeks, I’ll be graduating with my master’s degree in Psychology. Why at 46 did I decide to go back to school? Mid-life crisis reframing was definitely part of it, but I was also ...

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Research finds Children Learn Social Skills at Camp

10 Friendship Skills e-bookSubscribe to my weekly emails with tips for raising thriving kids, and I'll send you my 10 Friendship Skills e-book!envelopeSEND ME THE FRIENDSHIP SKILLS! Last summer, I conducted research on the impact camp ...

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Study Finds Campers Really are Happy

Camp is basically my happy place, and I love being here more than any other place in the world. -Camper, 2014 “Happy camper” is an expression used to describe anyone who’s feeling good about something ...

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Super Mom or Super Bomb? Modeling a Balanced Life for our Kids

“First and foremost, we need to be the adults we want our children to be.” Brené Brown Books have an amazing way of dropping into my life at exactly the right moment. There’s usually one ...

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3 Ways to Make Family Dinner like a Campfire

Most of us know the importance of family dinners: Kids who regularly eat dinner with their families are more emotionally stable, are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, get better grades, have fewer depressive symptoms, and are less inclined ...

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Three Character Traits Kids Develop at Camp

While it’s easy to think of ways to teach our kids to do laundry or solve math problems, finding a way to instill important character traits isn’t so simple. The way we model traits we ...

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7 Ways to Foster Relationships Using Social Media

No human on the internet can miss the flood of articles about how bad all of our screen time is for our kids and for us. I’ve added to the “unplugged” conversation myself and am ...

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10 Social Skills Kids Learn at Camp

At one of my son’s soccer games this fall, a mom on our team offered her son $50 for each goal he scored. He had the highest scoring game of his life, and his mom ...

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Five Reasons Every Teen Should go to Summer Camp

Being at camp gives me this sense of belonging that I’ve never felt anywhere else. I know that I can be myself and that my cabin mates will love me for who I am, and ...

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Top 3 Posts of 2014

Dear Sunshine Parenting Reader, Thank you for reading my posts this year! In 2007, I read a book called Writing to the Change the World. I decided that if something I share helps one person, then writing ...

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15 Books that Inspire my Parenting

As a fun, year-end activity (at least for a book nerd like me), I’ve pulled some of my favorite books from the shelf and reflected on how they’ve inspired my parenting – and my life. ...

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Raising Grateful – not Entitled – Kids

grate•ful:  feeling or showing appreciation; thankful. en•ti•tiled: believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. An interesting juxtaposition occurs in November and December. Immediately following a month where we focus on being thankful, we ...

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Why my Family is Celebrating World Kindness Day

Like most families, we are constantly on the go between school, sports, and other activities. But as I inventory where we’re spending our time, I find (embarrassingly) that most of our activities benefit only ourselves. Our ...

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The List: My Best Parenting Tip

Before I had kids, there were several things I said I would never let my kids do. Once I was actually a parent, however, many of the “nevers” evaporated in the reality of my day-to-day parenting challenges. ...

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Screen Overload: 5 New Family Rules

I have a love-hate relationship with my screens. I know how important it is to get unplugged, and I enjoy many outdoor, non-tech activities, yet I love texting with my kids who are away at college, ...

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4 Ways to Make School more like CAMP

My dream is for my kids to attend a school they love as much as they love camp. Two years ago, when my son started at a new school and was having a difficult time, ...

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3 Life Lessons Learned on a Tow Rope

The recreational sports we teach at camp include sailing, water skiing, rock climbing, and many more fun outdoor sports. But these are not the most important skills campers learn. We view the recreational skills we ...

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It’s Not All Bullying

  A few summers ago, a ten-year-old camper wrote a letter home telling his parents he was being bullied at camp. His irate mother called to let us know. I was very concerned, so I ...

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One Important Thing

I overestimate what I can do. Every day. You would think after nearly five decades of living with me, I would know that there is no way I am going to accomplish the 11 items ...

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Why Kids Flourish at Camp

Campers often describe camp as their “happy place”” or “the best two weeks” of their year. And, from my own observation, I’ve seen that kids and the counselors who work with them are obviously happy ...

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“Pay it Forward” Day is April 24

No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. -Aesop I usually rush through the day thinking about what I need to get done and consumed by all the stuff that weighs on my time ...

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Making Friends: Developing Emotional Intelligence

Why should we care so much about our kids making friends? Because children with friends show many positive characteristics that continue into adulthood, including more of all of these traits than their friendless peers: • ...

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Five Reasons Great Parents Send Their Kids to Camp

My shy, quiet nine-year-old went to camp not knowing a soul. Two weeks later, she came home transformed.  She blossomed. She made friends, learned a multitude of activities, felt safe, loved, confident, and happy — really, ...

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Making Friends: Managing Difficult Emotions

Here are a few tough questions: • Has anyone ever accused your child of bullying or being mean to another child? • Have you ever seen your child lash out (physically or verbally) at another child? ...

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Friends: Finding Gold in a Plastic Era

“Friendship is the gold of childhood.”   Michael Thompson’s statement stuck with me long after I attended his session on the social lives of millennial children at a recent American Camp Association conference.  I would go ...

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Making Friends: 3 Communication Skills Your Child Needs

Leaving a soccer game last fall, a teammate called out to my son, “Great game today!” My son didn’t turn his head. He grunted something unintelligible, and he walked away. My husband and I were ...

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Why Family Dinner is Important

I almost changed the title of this post to “Why my Kids won’t be Olympians,” since it seems appropriate this week. There are many reasons (mostly genetic and statistical) my kids won’t be in the ...

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Enjoy Your Teen Daughter

No longer teens, but still amazing (2018). 2014: Inspired by an email from a friend last week asking about parenting her soon-to-be-teen daughter, I found this post from a few years ago that still speaks ...

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Practice What I Pin: Get Organized!

I’m like a lot of other moms in that I have A LOT of different projects and tasks going on simultaneously.  There are moments when I can’t remember all of the things I have to ...

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5 Reasons to UNPLUG

Oh, how I love my nightly Pinterest sessions.  I look forward to that mindless scrolling and pinning of recipes I’ll never make and quotes that inspire.  And I love seeing pictures friends have posted and ...

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Hug Your Teen Today

“The most important assignment a mom has is to nurture her children.” Tim Sanford, M.A. (Losing Control & Liking It) Significant research has shown that babies need a lot of nurturing in order to thrive. ...

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4 Parenting Challenges and How Camp Can Help

In today’s digital, fast-moving, ultra-competitive world, raising kids who grow into happy, independent adults has become more challenging for parents. Quality summer camp programs offer an experience that many parents have found to benefit their child’s ...

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My SMART Goal: Encouraging Notes to my Kids

I love thinking about and writing down my goals for each year.  I used to set unrealistic, vague, way-too-big goals and resolutions – the kind that barely last beyond the start of the New Year. ...

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Two Ways to Be a Better Parent

This weekend, I had the pleasure of listening to Madeline Levine, PhD. (author of The Price of Privilege, Teach Your Children Well) speak at my favorite annual camp conference. Dr. Levine has insight as to why ...

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Are We Having Fun Yet?

I have a confession to make. My family, as of late, does not have much fun together.  Yes, there are the occasional weekend trips or parties with friends where we have fun. But, on a ...

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Making Family Dinner like a Campfire

An activity we do at campfires at camp has been helpful in our family at getting our kids to communicate about both positive and negative events in their lives.   For children who don’t normally share ...

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Focusing on Kindness

“Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.” -Marian Wright Edelman This summer’s theme is “Cool 2B Kind.” We’ll focus on being kind to one another and carrying ...

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Finding Flow

“The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task…” -Wikipedia definition of flow While searching for a Minecraft video on YouTube, my nine-year-old stumbled upon a video about making ...

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Grit, Goals, and Growth

Gold Arrow Camp has taught me to be brave and reach my goals. If it wasn’t for GAC, I wouldn’t be nearly as courageous as I am now. Remi Grit Grit has become the new ...

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That’s Why We’re Here!

We finally got out of our pajamas and headed to the ice rink late Christmas afternoon.  My natives were restless, and although I would have loved to lounge the entire day away – maybe do ...

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Good Gifts

The best thing you can give your children, next to good habits, are good memories. -Sydney Harris Our home is overrun with more electronic gadgets than there are people.  And, with our kids beyond the ...

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Way Too Much of a Good Thing

Anyone who’s been reading my blog knows that I’m a big proponent of getting kids “unplugged.”  I love that they get two weeks of tech free time to focus on face-to-face relationships while they’re at ...

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Sharing our Highs, Lows, and Buffaloes

What do kids choose to share with their parents about their camp experience, or, for that matter, about any experience? Most kids immediately share about their accomplishments (“I got up on water skis!”), the fun, ...

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