Camp, coffee bags, creativity and confidence

I’ve been having an absolutely fantastic week. Today is the last day of  Wishful Thinking Works’ “Camp Summer Girls”, which I presented for 11 girls aged 9-12 at our local Yacht Club as part of our city’s Parks & Rec. Summer Program. We did all kinds of creative, confidence-building fun stuff for two hours a day. I’m going to miss the girls big time; they are so much FUN!

We had a great field stone-walled room all to ourselves where the girls built a “campfire” each day. In the true summer-camp tradition we selected new names for ourselves, which combined our current likes with our future aspirations; samples include:  “She who loves to read and heal people.”  “She who loves sing.” “She who loves to run fast and heal animals.”

We also created an internal “beauty pageant”, which spotlighted how amazing and awesome each girl is; posters that showed how we are connected to family, friends and our communities; and today we will be making vision boards to showcase our dreams. We did Reader’s Theater – the girls loved putting their costumes together and the drama of being on “stage”. And, each girl took time studying her beautiful face in a mirror and within fifteen minutes was able to do a wonderful drawing of what she saw!

We had a “Project Runway Day”, which was a huge hit. The girls created outfits from burlap bags that had been used to import coffee from around the world – the bags were bigger than the girls, but they found creative ways to use them to make skirts, vests, purses, and head bands! We had lots of recycled scarfs, belts, jewelry, and clothes on hand for the girls to use to transform their coffee bag creations. 

On the first day, most of the girls arrived hesitant and shyly smiling but by week’s end they were talking, laughing and greeting new friends as they walked through the door. It was great to see them having so much fun and trying new things. The girls’ energy and enthusiasm are contagious, I feel like a “Camp Summer Girl” myself.  

Thanks to my teen helper for the week, Brooke, who was amazingly awesome, and to my friend Linda, who was so sweet to be on hand to help with the girls’ Project Runway creations. Special thanks to Brooke’s mom, Julie, for sharing her wonderful daughter and for donating lots of clothes to the cause. Additional thanks go to my dear friend Nellie for the closet cleaning she did to provide goodies for the girls costumes and creations, and for sharing her music and machine. And, to Amy from our Coffee Meetup, who gathered clothes for the girls, as well. You are all are wonderful, and the girls loved having so many choices to work with.

Thanks to the Moms and Dads who created and shared the amazingly awesome girls, I was lucky enough to work with this week! And, to the Camp Summer Girls – thanks for being who you are, because you are  creative, talented, smart and amazingly awesome. Have a wonderful summer and a fantastic school year. 


Here is an article I wrote when I started thinking about presenting the Camp. Please feel free to share it with your friends and family.

Patrice Koerper’s Six Summertime Self-Esteem Building Steps for Your Child

Summer is a great time to build your child’s self-esteem. A child’s self-confidence impacts many aspects of his or her development, including school performance. Building or reinforcing your child’s self-esteem now, when the daily pressure of school and interacting with friends and teachers is reduced, will give him or her a great start when school begins.

These six steps can help you, help your child:

Step 1 – Compliment

Think positive! Write down ten things about each of your children that you absolutely love. Include aspects of their personality, emotions, physical being, character, or talents. Then select seven of these attributes, including at least one from each category, and thoughtfully compliment each child, daily for seven days on a different trait.

Pause after you compliment your children, let what you’ve shared sink in and give them a chance to respond. Then hug them, squeeze their hand, tousle their hair and move on. No need to suggest they say “thank you”, your compliment is the important thing.

Step 2 – Develop an Appreciative Attitude

At dinnertime or when tucking your children into bed at night, ask them to share one thing from the day that made them happy, feel good, or they are thankful for. Start the process by talking about something that made you happy. Keep it light; let them respond without interruption; and see “Step 6” for tips on reinforcing what they share.

If they don’t want to participate, don’t worry. Keep sharing your gratitudes each night, working-up to three a day, and eventually they will chime in. Positive psychology studies show that writing or sharing three gratitudes a day can improve happiness and well-being. It’s free and easy, and the benefits are both immediate and long-lasting. In her book, “The Joy of Appreciative Living” Jacqueline Kelm shows how 28 days of gratitudes can help create a new attitude. And, hundreds of studies show thinking positively increases creativity and productivity, which can make the school year more enjoyable for everyone.

Step 3 – Create Special Assignments

Give your child the chance to play an important role in your household this summer. Ask your child what they would like to do as a special assignment. Helping your child select a specific chore can develop a sense of achievement and responsibility, which will reinforce their self-esteem. Solid self-esteem is built upon action, giving your children a way to contribute to your family can have a huge-payoff down the road.

The key is finding a good match between the child and the chore. Be creative. If your son keeps his room organized, maybe he’d be good at cleaning out the linen closet, rearranging kitchen cupboards or garage shelves, or perhaps, creating an online family budget. Another child might prefer reading to a younger sibling or planning and cooking dinner with you. Even the littlest child can help empty drawers, fold clothes or arrange shoes in a closet.

Next, create a fun and easy tracking and reward system for each child. Remember, praise, recognition or a treat may be as important to your child as a monetary award. Finding the right reward for each child will increase the likelihood of success. Let them pick their reward, if you can.

Step 4 – Schedule One-on-One Time

Schedule one-on-one time with your child at least every other week. If you haven’t done this before or very often, scheduling even once a month can be effective. Let your daughter or son select what you will do together. If necessary, set dollar, time and activity limits, but try not to be too restrictive about the details. Make sure you follow through, and stick closely to their plan.

This step can create a sense of security, and reduce competition for your attention. It will also let your children know you value spending time with them and that you trust them to plan an activity or outing, a skill that can help them in school and later in life.

Step 5 – Follow Their Lead

Another great leadership and team building tool is to let your son or daughter plan a family vacation activity. If you’re not taking a vacation, simply substitute weekly family nights and let each child select a weekly activity. Remember to praise and thank them for their efforts, which will reinforce the value of working and playing together, and their self-confidence.

Step 6 – Communicate Actively and Constructively

In his new book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being”, Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, discusses new research that reveals how people respond to a loved one’s good news, is an indicator of how happy and strong their relationship is. Active, positive communication creates better relationships, and can improve your child’s self-esteem. Here’s how to make it work in your home:

  1. Pay attention. Let your child “see” that you are listening when they share important or good news with you. Look them in the eye, turn your body toward them. Smile, laugh, and touch them. Make the conversation all about them. It only takes a few focused minutes to show them how much you care.
  2. Say something positive/constructive: “Oh, Danielle, you made the team, that’s terrific.” Let your choice of words and the way you say them show your excitement. Be sincere and specific.
  3. Engage them by asking questions: “How did you find out?” Then listen, and remain active by following-up with “You must have been so excited, tell me all about it.” Then listen again, so they can share and savor their good news with you.  Suggest ways you can all celebrate their success with a special family treat or dinner.

Stay confident!

To keep yourself on target over the summer, talk to your significant other, friend or family member every night, or as often as you can, about how great it feels to be using the six steps to help your child build his or her self-confidence. If no one is on-hand to listen, jot down your feelings in a journal or share them with your friends on Facebook as a way to savor what you are doing and how good it feels. The better you feel about yourself, the process, and life in general, the easier it will be for your child to feel self-confident.

 Use the “Six Summertime Self-Esteem Building Steps” to increase your child’s self-confidence and to create warm and wonderful family memories, all of which can last a lifetime.


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