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SkyMoms > Parenting Tips

How Family Camp Helped My Son Conquer His Fears

When we arrived at Family Camp in 2014, it took exactly three minutes for our kids to kick off their shoes.  They’re not much for footwear and would go bare-feet to church if allowed.  In fact, our youngest, Little Bit, has lost several pairs of shoes at church.

How does that happen?
No idea.

I warned them about splinters given the wooden decks on the covered porches at Sky Ranch Ute Trail, but did they listen?
Of course not.

In the spirit of “picking my battles,” I decided to let the scene roll. Within two hours, our oldest son had a ginormous splinter in his foot. (Yes, “ginormous” is a word.) It was embedded deeply in his skin between his first two toes.

It happened while we were in orientation so the counselors tried to get it out. God bless their efforts, but he wouldn’t cooperate. What they didn’t know, having just met our son, is that he’s hard-wired to be fearful. Fearful of new things, failure, embarrassment, pain, heights, speed, loud noise. The list was endless.

It was part of his temperament that had us “in the weeds.” We knew we needed to help him work through his fear, but we were stumped to find the right approach.

We took our son back to our cabin to work on the splinter.  We didn’t have any better luck than the counselors and, before we knew it, things had spiraled downward.

In the moment when we realized we might have to hold him down to get the splinter out, my husband decided we needed a time out.

He went to the lodge to grab a splinter tool and a deep breath. He came back, armed with all the needed supplies and a new disposition on his face.

He told me that he struck up a conversation with one of the counselors while digging through the First Aid Kit.  As he shared the struggle we were having with our son, she shared that she suffered a similar struggle when she was a child.

She said she was extremely fearful and lost her self-control when fear overcame her. During these episodes, her mom would say to her: “It’s OK to be afraid. But it’s not OK to lose your self-control.”

We took a deep breath and gave that speech to our son. He nodded his head in understanding, and we felt a renewed sense of hope. We got the splinter out with little drama. He was so proud of himself!

It was a pivotal moment.  We knew it then, but we didn’t realize its magnitude until we used the same speech to encourage him to do this:

And this.


Thank goodness we learned this new tactic on Day 1! Our son had an amazing week of self-discovery as a result of this tip.

The irony is that we’d been working with him on a memory verse all summer, chosen for him after lots of prayer and conversation:

“God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and self-control.”  2 Timothy 1:7

But in our teaching, we had focused on not being afraid rather than being self-controlled.  It occurred to us that telling a child not to be afraid is like telling someone not to be happy or sad, not to be angry or frustrated. It’s unreasonable.

Rational or not, our feelings are our feelings, and we have to deal with them.

That doesn’t mean erasing them with a magic wand or stuffing them under the bed. (Don’t we wish that were the case?)  It means processing them through real work, all the while, using the tool of self-control.

That was three years ago. This verse has been a theme in our family ever since.

We’ve been back to Family Camp the last two years, and we’re going again in July. What a gift it’s been to watch our son grow in self-control. In fact, last year, he conquered the high ropes course and the zip line like a boss!

From the ground, we watched him along with several other parents who know this part of our story because we’ve camped together the last three years. I was touched by the tears these parents shed alongside us as they watched our son achieve these milestones.

We only see these families one week a year, but there’s something about Family Camp that allows us to live a lot of life together in those seven days. The investments we make during that week bring us back year-after-year, and every year, we watch our children grow together.

For more information about Sky Ranch Ute Trail and Sky Ranch Horn Creek, click here. We’d love you to join us at family camp this summer!