This is a guest post from Michelle Lilyanna at Happinessandjoylessons.com

Last week, a friend came to me and asked me to make a nighttime audio for her daughter who is going away to summer camp. Her daughter has enjoyed my other calming audios but wanted one specifically to help her when she was away from the family. I wanted to incorporate some techniques and practices I know for “Taking in The Good” and “Getting Through Difficult Times.” This one is for you Miss MacKenzie.


* I offer all parents and children this free audio download on my site: Happinessandjoylessons.com

I have been teaching children for over 25 years and Rick’s work has added enormously to helping my students center, become more mindful and take in the good. The neuroscience he shares has become common language in our classroom. We talk of the amygdala, hippocampus, neurons and the brain almost daily in some form or another. We talk about letting the good really sink in and changing our emotional memories. We have children drink in good feelings for 15 seconds or more to really anchor these memories in the body. Children are empowered by this knowledge and know they can change their brains for the better.

Please read below at my offerings of how to help prepare a child for summer camp. This work is infused with Rick’s rich teachings.

— Michele

Helping Prepare Your Child For Summer Camp And For Being Away From Home

1. Remember all children are different. What works for one of your children may not work for another. Let them know anxiety is normal and natural and there are ways to train the mind and body to simply acknowledge the anxiety and move into the calm. Remember children are all individuals. They react in so many ways, just as you do, to different experiences. Dr. Hanson reminds us: “Similarly, children in the anxious/rigid range of temperament also benefit from consciously soaking in good feelings, since they tend to ignore or downplay the evidence for those positive experiences.”

2. Baby steps: prepare your child. You can start now before summer even shines her warm rays upon us.

3. Allow them to have autonomy and to help pick the camp as much as you possibly can. Having choice will make the experience more powerful and create a sense of autonomy.

4. Create support and community: Look online or talk with other children who have been there. Give them something to look forward to. Dr. Hanson says, “In sum, your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” So why not get them focussed on the positive?

5. Practice: Do a mini sleepover of a day or two. Talk about the experiences they had and how they worked through the emotions.

6. Empathize with fears but stand back and name them rather than get caught up in them.

7. Let your confidence infuse them. Let your child know you are confident they will handle what comes up. Let them know they have the resources to handle difficult emotions as well as happy ones.

8. Teach your child some simple facts about the brain to help them understand that neurons that fire together wire together. We want our brain in the groove of happiness. Many times I tell children: “If you are stuck in your head and cannot create something positive, go out and do something for someone else or a positive thing for animals.” Doing these acts takes our focus outside ourselves and brings in a sense of contentment, peacefulness and joy.

9. Just thinking of those who love you makes you feel better.

10. Relax: Teach your child full body relaxation tips to get their nervous system to relax. If they practice many times before they go to camp they will easily relax into the calm and have an anchor to relieve nighttime anxiety. Dr. Hanson tells us, “If the circuits of the soothing parasympathetic nervous system become more sensitized with practice, they help dampen stress reactions and support equanimity.”

11. Take in the Good: Because we know the brain, evolutionally is Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive we have to seek out the positive. You might have your child take a journal and write, draw or chat to themselves about the top great things that happened in the day. Tell them to let those great feeling sink into the body for 10 or 15 seconds so the brain has a chance to wire in the feeling and build the deep emotional memories.

12. It is okay to come up against challenges and feel uncomfortable: We so often want to protect our children from any source of difficulty. What we must remember is that doable challenges and tough emotions are part of life and actually build resilience and competence. Of course your child will have some discomfort being away from the family. (Some might not, so don’t beat yourself up over this one either. Ha Ha.) But small steps that are supported can build a huge well of resilience to draw upon when needed. Children can be reminded how they got through the camp experience and maybe even look back and see how they grew and blossomed from being away. So be gentle with yourselves, Mom and Dad, even if the kids are uncomfortable, this is positive growth.


Supportive books for children

•  The Berenstain Bears Go to Camp (First Time Books), by Stan Berenstain and Jan

•  The Safety Pin (Summer Camp Stories), by Elliot Sloyer and Vic Guiza

•  The Night Before Summer Camp, by Natasha Wing and Mindy Pierce

•  Rebekah – Girl Detective #9: Mystery at Summer Camp (a fun short story mystery for children ages 9-12), by P.J. Ryan

•  Froggy Goes to Camp by Jonathan London (Author), Frank Remkiewicz

For parents: We all need a little help too!

Awakening Joy for Kids
By: James Baraz (Author), Michele Lilyanna (Author)

You can preorder here. Due out August 9, 2016

*Spirit Rock founder, author, and teacher James Baraz’s Awakening Joy offers his large and devoted readership a program to gain contentment and happiness by cultivating the seeds of joy within. Here he joins with Michele Lilyanna, a classroom teacher for 25 years, to offer caregivers and children ways to find joy in each day together.

This unique offering nourishes both adults and kids. James shares the practices for the adults—parents, caregivers, and teachers. Michele offers her own experiences as a parent and as a teacher, showing how the themes work with kids, followed by the tried and true lessons that she’s used herself in the classroom and Packed with practices and activities that James and Michele have gathered over their many years of working with thousands of adults and children in retreats, workshops, and the classroom, Awakening Joy for Kids is imbued with compassion and delight. Part of Parallax Press' growing curriculum for parents and educators designed to cultivate joy and mindfulness in children.

Meditations for Happiness: Rewire Your Brain for Lasting Contentment and Peace – Audiobook, CD, by Rick Hanson