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Handling Homesickness at Summer Camp

Oh, the distress and worry that begins the feverish panic of the homesickness bug!  It typically bites the week before camp for most parents and campers and hits its highest peak by day two of camp.  Unless quarantined, the homesick bug runs rampant and causes quite a disturbance during camp week.  There is good news:  homesickness is like most any other mild allergy or summer cold; it can be prevented with the right measures.  If it does appear, it can be handled quickly so campers are on the mend and back to enjoying the fantastic summer activities of camp life with little disruption!

Campers who overcome homesickness and finish the entire week of summer camp successfully feel a sense of accomplishment and can also be praised for their demonstrating independence and problem solving abilities.  These are life skills that 4-H residential summer camp strives to teach our youth so they can grow into successful leaders of tomorrow!

Homesickness is a normal part of overnight camp.  Here are a few suggestions on how you can help manage homesickness to keep your children healthy and happy this summer!

PREPARATION IS PREVENTATIVE


By going to camp orientations, meeting with camp staff, reviewing the camp schedule, and answering questions can help your child prepare for what to expect at camp.  If possible, meet with the staff in charge to discuss any issues that may be giving your child anxiety about camp, or let us know of any issues at home that may be stressing your child.  This might include include being assigned to a cabin with a friend, needing a nightlight when sleeping, etc.  Having children involved in these discussions with staff in private will eliminate a lot of the anxiety, and in turn, reduce the chances and/or intensity of homesickness.

You can also allow your child to demonstrate independence early by letting them pack their own camp suitcase.  This will allow them to feel more in control of their situation and the decisions they are going to make for a week, boosting their confidence. (Of course, you will want to check the bag for items they may have forgotten.)

 POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT IS REASSURANCE

Parents can unwittingly set their children up for homesickness failure before camp even begins with just a few simple negative statements.  Statements from parents expressing their anxiety or sadness about their children leaving home can be damaging and ultimately lay a foundation  homesickness.  Please don’t be this parent.  Instead, reassure your child they’ll do great at camp, and reinforce that they will learn new things and become more independent.


CONFIDENCE IS CONTAGIOUS

Parents, remain confident from the time you sign your child up for camp until his/her children return home.  Emphasize the positives of the camping experience such as making new friends, learning new activities, swimming, etc. Keep your camper excited about the experience to help diminish the anxiety associated with the week.

Avoid giving your child the option of going home early from summer camp if he/she gets upset, sad, or homesick.  Instead, speak with the 4-H agent to discuss possible actions that can be taken to remedy the emotions that the camper is feeling.  Only as a very last resort should the parent speak with the child when a child is homesick; more often than not, it makes the homesickness worse.

 

TRUST YOUR 4-H STAFF

One of the hardest things to do may be one of the most important aspects of a successful summer camp for your child:  trust your camping staff.  From the beginning of the camp sign-up process, you  can meet with your 4-H Agent or person overseeing the camping week.   This will help you and your child feel more comfortable in their camp week.  It will also help your 4-H Agent or lead staffer know more about their campers!

4-H residential summer camps are designed to support positive youth development to develop independence, promote a sense of belonging in a group setting, encourage generosity, and facilitate the mastery of targeted life skills. Programs at camp teach 4-H’s fundamental approach of “learn by doing” through safe, fun, educational environments.

To find out more information about 4-H residential camping programs, please visit http://florida4h.org/camps_/  or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

RESOURCES

http://florida4h.org/camps_/

https://www.acacamps.org/press-room/how-to-choose-camp/homesickness

Ghoulishly Good Practices for Halloween

From candy to pumpkins to the costumes, Halloween is a fun-filled time for kids and adults alike. However, it can pose dangers.  To help make this year’s trick-or-treat a safe and fun time, follow these simple safety tips complied by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

CREATIVE COSTUMES:
Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flames.

Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.

Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes. The makeup should be tested ahead of time on a small patch of skin to ensure there are no unpleasant allergies on the big night.

When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are “flame resistant”.

If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or long. A child may be easily hurt by the accessories if he/she stumbles or trips.

Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.

Review with children how to call 911 if they ever have an emergency or become lost.

PUMPKIN CARVING TIME:
Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. Then adults can do the cutting.

Consider using a flashlight or glow stick instead of a candle to light your pumpkin. If you do use a candle, a votive candle is safest.

Candlelit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and not on a porch or any path where visitors may pass close by. They should never be left unattended.

HOME SAFETY:
To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.

Adults should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.

Wet leaves and debris should be swept from sidewalks and steps.

Restrain pets so they do not jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

TRICK-OR-TREAT TIME:
A responsible adult should always accompany young children during their neighborhood trick-or-treating.

Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and adults.

If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.

Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.

Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or-Treaters to:

  • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
  • Remember reflective tape for costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
  • Carry a cellphone for quick communication.
  • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
  • Do not assume the right of way. Motorists may have a hard time seeing Trick-or-Treaters.
  • Just because one car stops, does not mean others will!
  • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity

HEALTHY HALLOWEEN TIPS:
A good, healthy dinner prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage children from filling up on Halloween treats.

Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books, stickers, or pens and pencils.

Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.

Try to ration treats for the days and weeks following Halloween to prevent overindulging, which will lead to a stomachache and ruin the night’s fun.

Make sure the Halloween night is fun and safe with the suggested tips above.  These tips will help guarantee you all a ghoulishly good time.

Source:  American Academy of Pediatrics

Happy Halloween!

NO! Not the Dreaded Record Book. . .

Many youth (and parents) dread the 4-H Record Book

In the early years of 4-H, record books were a way to document profit or loss on a project, such as raising and preserving a crop or raising a herd of cattle. Over the years, record books have expanded to include topics like babysitting, robotics and sewing.  However the reasons why 4-H encourages youth to complete record books is the same- it is one of the most effective tools in positive youth development.  4-H Record Books foster the Essential Elements of positive youth development through:

  • Belonging: 4-H members are awarded for their participation in activities, earning symbols of belonging as they continue in 4-H (e.g. ribbons, achievement pins).
  • Mastery: Through competition, 4-H members receive feedback on their participation and record keeping skills so they can improve and grow.
  • Independence: 4-H members set and record goals and their progress towards those goals throughout the year. Record books also encourage members to participate in leadership development activities.
  • Generosity: 4-H members are provided an incentive to engage in their communities through positive citizenship and community development activities.

Record books are an effective way for youth to learn life skills.

However, record books are generally regarded as a chore young people; most fail to realize its value until they reach adulthood.  However, many 4-H Alumni still have their record books and will be quick to point out that the process taught them multiple life skills such as:

  • Time management and organizational skills.
  • Responsibility
  • How to set goals
  • Preparation for completion of resumes and applications for awards, college scholarships, and jobs
  • Financial literacy and keeping track of expenses
  • Written communication

But what does the research say?  Life skill development through record books is well documented.  During a recent study, 4-H alumni were polled regarding their experiences in 4-H and the use of record books (Bikos, Haney, Kirkpatrick-Husk and Hsia. Journal of Youth Development, 2014).  Alumni spoke of the real-world applicability of skills acquired during completion of record books to their adult life:

“It prepares us for life after we leave 4-H,” and “It has helped with a number of projects since I’ve left 4-H.”

Comparing skills learned in her Sewing/Needlework project to those gained from completion of record books, one alumnus said:

“Even though I’m not still doing clothing type things, I’m still doing things that I have to take records of.”

Leader perspectives voiced a similar theme but with a more parental tone:

“They may not be really aware of how this is going to relate in their real life, but it’s going to   whether they know it, or like it, or not.”

Alumni and leaders who had completed record books reported that the experience helped them successfully apply for college, scholarships, and employment. While most used the record book as an organized resource for easily locating information (e.g., “It was all there for me which was amazing”), a few were able to use the actual record book itself. 4-H members in Florida refer to their record books when completing their 4-H Portfolio, part of the process for applying for state awards and scholarships.

If you have a skill to share and would like to inspire the next generation, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  We offer a wide variety of roles to fit your interests and schedule. For more information about 4-H, visit our website or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

Next up, how to complete a record book (the easy way) by Escambia County 4-H Agent Brian Estevez.

 Full research article on the benefits of 4-H Record Books  

April Showers Us With Generosity

The month of April brings one of my favorite times of the year.  We have the Easter Bunny showering us with treats on Easter and the Earth dancing on its axis for Earth Day.  Pick any type of towering tree for Arbor Day and then there are a gazillion funny pranks and jokes to be told for April Fool’s Day.  Add a week to highlight the wonderful generosity of volunteers giving in organizations around the world and you have one fabulous month of the year!  That’s right!  April dedicates a week each year, National Volunteer Appreciation Week, to recognizing and celebrating individuals that give of themselves to help others.

Kim Gilbert is a 4-H volunteer that values both the impacts she makes and receives from being involved in 4-H.

To help the month of April highlight our NW District’s large green family of fabulous 4-H volunteers, let me introduce you to one of my 4-H volunteers befitting of April, 4-H, volunteering, and bunnies, oh my!  Meet Kim Gilbert, a Holmes County 4-H Volunteer, who has been the Rabbiteers Club Leader for the past two years.  With two daughters in 4-H of her own, she is a true example of a 4-H parent, volunteer, and supporter.  Kim fully supports the idea of 4-H being a big family and continually emphasizes this point in her 4-H club meetings.  She believes in 4-H’s essential elements and strongly stresses belonging and generosity with her club members.  As Kim explains, “You become a big family when you join 4-H and you can count on everyone to help out and pitch in.  I love my 4-H family!”

 

Chloe, learned to show her rabbit before a judge in a local 4-H fair.

Kim is always full of enthusiasm, encouragement, and new ideas that she shares with the youth and their rabbits. Armed with a soft rabbit in each arm and usually sweets for each club member too, Kim hops off to get her club meeting started.  With a background in raising, breeding, and judging rabbits, Kim is knowledgeable in a variety of rabbit breeds including Holland Lops, English Lops, Polish, Lionheads, Angoras, and Giant Angoras.  Not raised in 4-H as a child herself, she is thankful that she is able to provide 4-H opportunities to her own daughters and also give back by volunteering through leading the 4-H Rabbiteer Club.  Since Kim’s involvement with the Rabbiteers, Holmes County 4-H youth have learned how to participate in showmanship in local rabbit shows and fairs. When not leading club meetings, Kim will often times volunteer to work on exhibits and events to help staff and other clubs.

When asked which of the 4 H’s best represented her, i.e. Head, Heart, Hands, or Health, Kim stated that was actually a very hard question.  As a 4-H Agent who has worked closely with her for two years, I had no doubt which one represented her immediately but I patiently waited for her own reply with a secret smile on my face.  After a moment, Kim replies, “I would say it is a tie between Hand and Heart but if I had to choose, I guess I will go with Heart.”  Without a doubt, she nailed the answer perfectly! Kim is definitely one that is always thinking of others first, whether it is a simple note of well wishes or a thoughtful goodie bag of treats for each youth.  She leads the youth and other adults with her heart and demonstrates the role of a 4-H club leader very well, truly encompassing the passion that was founded when 4-H adopted the motto “to make the Best Better.”

Kim is a true advocate of 4-H, firmly believing that not only does she positively impact youth as a 4-H volunteer but that she is being impacted by the organization as well.

According to Kim, “4-H has totally impacted my life in a way that I would not have seen two years ago.  It has changed the way I look at things, how I handle things and has also taught me more things about my own self.  4-H has also brought my own family closer, learning to share more with each other.”  Ah, there’s that generosity component we 4-Hers love to spread so much!

Hop on over to http://florida4h.org/volunteers_/ to join our 4-H family!

With truly caring volunteers in our 4-H family, it’s no wonder that 4-H is one of the nation’s largest youth development organizations in the world.  If you are not a 4-H volunteer yet, what is stopping you?  Hop on over to our website at http://florida4h.org/volunteers_/  to join our 4-H family as a volunteer!  We have something for everyone!

4-H Alumnae Reconnect through Love of Horses

Russell and Julie McMillian, Gulf County 4-H Alumnae and 4-H Leaders

Russell and Julie McMillian both grew up in Gulf County and together have established a thriving business based on their love of horses.  They now own a small farm in Dalkeith, just south of Wewahitchka, and their business Rockin’ M Ranch, consists of horseback riding lessons for beginners and beach rides for tourists and locals alike along the beautiful beaches of Cape San Blas.

How did this all begin?  Russell and Julie both grew up as Gulf County 4-H members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club.  They both participated in a variety of 4-H programs; including Horse Camp, Camp Timpoochee, Congress (now known as 4-H University), District Events, North Florida Fair Ag Judging, Area A and State 4-H Horse Shows, etc.  They both learned the values of 4-H through learning how to raise and compete with their animals, agricultural commodities, leadership skills, public speaking, community service, good decision making skills, and much more…

As adults, they both went in separate directions, but still maintained their love of horses and the farm life.  Russell began his career in flooring and tile work, while Julie received her education degree and taught Kindergarten at Wewahitchka Elementary School.  After reconnecting as adults, they married on September 25, 2010 and turned their passion for horses into a full-time love by creating their own business, Rockin’ M Ranch.  Russell still does flooring, tile work on the side, and helps his grandparents with their hay business.  Julie decided to leave the teaching field, and she manages their business full time.  She began giving beach rides on the Cape at the age of 14 and still loves it as much today.

Julie and Russell McMillian pictured with Brooke (left) and Hayleigh (right).

Russell began his time with 4-H at the age of 12 and Julie was 8 years old.  As members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club, they adored their 4-H leaders, Mr. Jesse Eubanks and Ms. Jean McMillian (Russell’s grandmother), and the Gulf County Extension Director, Roy L. Carter (now retired), whose passion for horses was contagious.  Julie explained that she was a very shy child and that participating in public speaking for District Events really helped her come out of her shell.  They both loved learning the values of the four H’s: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.  They feel 4-H has helped them develop into productive adults with good decision-making skills and in-stilled in them the importance of giving back to their community.  They have served as 4-H volunteers for the Big River Rider’s 4-H Club since Russell’s daughters joined 4-H years ago; Brooke (17) and Hayleigh (15) also ride horses and have competed in a variety of Gulf County 4-H programs throughout the years. Russell and Julie have also taught a variety of horse riding classes at multiple Gulf County 4-H day camps.

As 4-H and community leaders, their most important goal is to give back to the community that gave to them as 4-Hers growing up here. They really love introducing new riders to the love of horses and 4-H.  On any day, Russell and Julie can be found throughout the county at various events supporting 4-H members and any youth for that matter.

When asked what advice she has for someone thinking about becoming a 4-H volunteer she said, “Do not have regrets…just do it. Do not be scared off by the fingerprinting and application process.  It is quick and easy, and maintains the safety for you and the children.  Get started! 4-H is a great opportunity for youth and adults.”

“As a 4-H extension agent, you can only hope to find 4-H volunteers as dedicated as Russell and Julie McMillian.  Their passion and love of 4-H is infectious and draws in youth looking for a place to belong.”  -Melanie Taylor, Gulf County 4-H Agent

For more information about Rockin’ M Ranch, please go to http://www.therockinmranch.com/.  For more information about how to become involved in 4-H, either as a youth member or adult volunteer, visit florida4h.org or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.  4-H offers a variety of roles for volunteers to share their passions, skills and interests.

 

Making a Difference by Fostering Independence

Make a Difference Monday is an online volunteer training series.

Make a Difference Monday is an online volunteer training series.

Most youth have started back to school, and soon we will roll over onto a new 4-H year as well!  We are excited to kick off our Make a Difference Monday series next month.  Make a Difference Monday is a online training series for both new and experienced 4-H volunteers.  This year’s series will focus on the concept of Independence. There are two Essential Elements for Positive Youth Development related to Independence: Opportunity to see oneself as an active participant in the future and the opportunity for self determination.

The first session will help volunteers perfect their processing skills as they facilitate 4-H learning in their club.  Learning how to lead youth through the process of learning and discovery can be easier said than done.  Sarah Hensley, our state curriculum and evaluation specialist, will provide simple resources and tips so that volunteers can become experts in our Learn by Doing Model.

The second session will really help us fine tune our skills at forging youth adult partnerships.  How we as adults see youth sets the tone of our club and county program.  This session will help us examine our own beliefs and attitudes towards youth (and how it impacts our success as leaders) and will also help us teach youth how they can have an impact on their own life rather than passively submitting to the will and whims of others.  In short- it is about empowering youth to make decisions and prepare them to be leaders to make a positive difference.   One of the most powerful ways that club leaders can foster this Essential Element is by engaging youth in the club programming planning.  4-H Agent Karen Miliffe and myself will help guide you through that process.

One of the most difficult tasks for youth is learning how to set SMART goals.  For example, this year for my daughter’s very first 4-H demonstration, she wanted to demonstrate how to make home-made pasta.  Although that was an excellent idea, I felt that that would be a difficult demonstration for an 8-year old to pull off (to be honest, making home-made pasta is a bit of a challenge for most adults).  Instead, I helped her choose a more realistic and age-appropriate goal- demonstrating how to make her favorite batch of cookies.  Success in setting a achieving goals gives youth the confidence to aspire to more challenging goals in a safe way.  This session, taught by our Positive Youth Development Specialist Dr. Kate Fogarty and 4-H Agent Sonja Crawford, will also help us better understand the ages and stages of positive youth development to guide us as we support different age groups of youth.

Sessions will start promptly at 7 PM Eastern/6 PM Central.  You can join at home on our computer, phone, or tablet or if you prefer a group setting, you can contact your local UF IFAS Extension office for the nearest location available to you.  More information is available at http://florida4h.org/madmondays. 

September 19 Fostering Independence with Learning by Doing Sarah Hensley
October 17 Nurturing Independence through the Club Program Karen Miliffe and Heather Kent
November 21 Encouraging Independence through Project Work Kate Fogarty and Sonja Crews