Should you send your child to camp?
Sending your child to overnight camp is a big decision. You may be a lifelong camper or someone who never had an overnight camp experience…either way, taking that leap with your own child can be challenging. We live in a time with access to our children almost 24/7. Modern technology has made it very easy to keep in constant contact with our children and monitor their daily activities. The close watch we have on them comes from a place of love and genuine concern, but can often lead to over-involvement in their lives. And over-involvement can lead to dependency and insecurity. In fact, the best love we can show our children is the gift of independence and confidence. To take a step back, let them make decisions, learn to trust themselves, and be self-reliant. And one of the best places to gain this independence is sleep-away camp.
Summer camp gives children the opportunity for growth and independence in a safe and supportive environment. Psychologist Michael Thompson, Homesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow, says that “in the final analysis, there are things we cannot do for our children, no matter how much we might want to. In order to successfully accomplish these tasks, to grow in the ways they need to grow, children have to do it on their own, and usually away from their parents, sometimes overnight, sometimes days or weeks or even months”. Summer camp is a community where kids and staff come together to have fun, but it is so much more. Camp gives children the opportunity to take healthy risks in a safe environment and begin to make decisions without the assistance of mom and dad, and develop a sense of trust in themselves and their abilities. Camp is a place where children learn many life skills including self-reliance and conflict resolution.
Camp offers lessons in teamwork, social skills, tolerance, friendship, and empathy. Lessons children will take with them throughout life. Campers will remember the counselors that guided them and encouraged them to give it one more try. Many will later become counselors who give back to others with their leadership and guidance. They will remember making decisions on their own and learning from their successes as well as their challenges. Camp allows children to unplug from social media and develop real friendships. Friendships that develop over singing songs around the campfire, enjoying activities together, working through conflicts together, encouraging one another, and being there to laugh and enjoy all the joys that camp brings. Campers will reconnect with nature and spend time being physically active.
There is no doubt that spending time away from our children can be difficult. Even when we know how incredible camp is, we still worry about them, miss them, hope they are happy, making friends, brushing their teeth, and putting on sunscreen. But the missing and wonder is soon replaced with appreciation when they return home and we see the amazing transformations camp has produced.
We see confident, capable, empowered children who trust in themselves. And how wonderful is that! Letting go may be difficult, but an overnight camp experience is a gift of independence and endless personal rewards.