By the time camp is in full-swing, it’s easy to let things slide, especially if your programs are running well. But it’s important not to get complacent or too busy to take care of what matters most—yourself. It’s the perfect time to do a mental, emotional and social health (MESH) assessment for your camp counselors and leadership team. Checking in with your staff are in these aspects of their lives can help prevent unforeseen issues and can help your team sail through to the end of the season.
An Ounce of Prevention
Camp can be a stressful time for camp staff and campers alike. Everyone arrives with their own MESH stressors, which can be exacerbated by being away from home. Overexertion can be as bad for MESH as it can be for physical health, and the excitement of camp can make it easy to go overboard in social or physical situations. By asking your counselors to do a self-assessment at multiple times throughout the summer, you can ensure they’re taking care of themselves. The beginning assessment can serve as a baseline that the counselors can compare their subsequent assessments to, giving them insight into whether their methods are working or not. In addition, it helps your staff be aware of warning signs in their colleagues and camp participants and can prepare them to head off MESH incidents before they get out of hand.
While it’s a good idea to start the summer season off by giving your counselors the tools they need to take care of themselves and be aware of where they stand in terms of their MESH needs, there’s a good chance they’ll forget to self-assess. Scheduling check-ins reinforces the need for self-assessments, especially if it reveals that they’re faltering. It also gives them an opportunity to change direction on any negative patterns that may be forming.
The ongoing mantra should be: “I take care of myself so that I can care for others.” Make sure they know you expect them to take a step back when they need to, especially in the middle of the summer when they may be busiest. Provide opportunities to recharge, such as having private rooms that can be reserved when needed or weekly yoga sessions. If any counselors report not having had enough time or space to take care of themselves, make adjustments immediately to help them. This will show that you take your MESH commitments seriously and are ensuring the rest of the summer goes well for everyone.
Conducting MESH Check-Ins
Make sure your staff and volunteers recognize the importance of check-ins by making it a mandatory, camp-wide initiative and not just something that can be overlooked or skipped. Schedule it at the beginning of the summer with an agenda in place, so they know it’s coming and what’s expected of them. Communicate why mental and emotional wellbeing is important, and demonstrate specific ways to handle a MESH event should one occur. Give your counselors time to share issues that have arisen along with techniques and tips on handling them. Reiterate the MESH self-care methods you taught them at the beginning of the summer season and answer any questions that may have come up.
Using MESH to Set Your Program Apart
Believe it or not, conducting MESH check-ins can help set your program apart from other camps. If counselors are comfortable and capable of taking care of their own mental, emotional and social health, they’ll be able to focus on the needs of camp participants. This will increase the chances that everyone at your camp has a safe, enjoyable time and give your participants a reason to tell their friends about what a great time they had. Millennial parents and their Generation Z children will come to expect mental, emotional and social health to be addressed in their summer camp programs for themselves, and the fact that you include a MESH assessment for all camp counselors can provide another selling point for parents.
For more ideas on how to create a next-generation program that will draw in participants and staff alike, download our free set of whitepapers today.