Fostering Independence ……It’s a camp thing!

It’s May and that means crunch time for getting those camp forms completed and sent in before camp begins.   Parents are busy filling out health papers, consent forms, questionnaires, and helping us get an overall picture of their camper’s specific needs and interests.  We also learn a bit more about what parents want from their child’s camp experience.  In addition to making friends and being a part of the camp community, one very important outcome parents want from their child’s camp experience is greater independence.  Gaining independence is an integral part of a child’s growth process, and the decision to send a child to overnight camp is a great start in building independence.  Being given the opportunity to live and play outside of the family circle is an incredibly empowering experience, and one that will lay a foundation of independence and self –reliance for a lifetime.  Camp is an ideal environment to build the independence parents hope their children will gain.  The camp environment gives children the setting to make choices, take healthy risks, challenge themselves, learn from mistakes and receive the support and encouragement to succeed in so many areas of life.

Camp allows children to take care of their basic needs and personal belongings.  Each day, campers pick out their clothing, get themselves dressed, brush their teeth and hair, shower and put their personal belongings away.  From 7:30am wake up to 9:30pm lights out, they are taking on responsibilities that make them feel capable.  The tasks we often do for children at home are being done by them independently.  These basic accomplishments often lead to taking on bigger responsibilities at camp as well as when they return home.  We often hear parents say how much their child has matured over the summer in terms of taking care of their responsibilities at home.

Camp allows for making choices.  Campers decide what to wear, what to eat, the friendships they develop and some camp electives they want to participate in.  Even with the structure of the camp day, campers have the opportunity to make choices and gain a sense of control over their environment.  Decision making creates self determination.  This ability to express choices, identify preferences and have a sense of independence about their own lives will build their self-esteem and carry them through many life situations. With the guidance and support of counselors, campers are still being empowered to make healthy decisions. 
Camp allows children to make mistakes and learn from them.  As parents, it’s difficult to see our children struggle, so we often come to “the rescue” too quickly and rob them of coming up with solutions on their own.  Allowing children to make mistakes and come up with solutions allows them to learn, grow and trust in themselves, all leading to greater independence.  Being able to correct mistakes and come up with a solution is a definite confidence booster.
Camp gives children the opportunity to work out conflicts.  Just as we should not try to fix their mistakes too quickly, it is also important to let children work out their differences on their own.  It is amazing how campers living together learn to express ideas and feeling and ultimately work things through on their own.  They learn to resolve conflicts as a group and gain a better understanding of one another.  Without stepping in and resolving it for them, counselors are there to brainstorm ideas on how to best work things out if needed, and campers are learning how to resolve future conflicts.
Camp lets children play, explore, and create.  With so many amazing activities and events being offered, camp helps children discover and master new interests, all leading to a sense of competence and self confidence.   In addition to the fabulous fine and performing arts programs already in place, we have some incredible additions this summer – like “u-build-it”, wearable art, and film making – that will allow campers to create and explore their imagination.  Creativity stretches the mind, helps us learn and think, and gives us a sense of freedom – all leading to greater independence.
So as you complete camp forms, pack up camp trunks and prepare your child for their camp journey, know that you are giving your child the gift of a summer filled with fun, friendship, discovery and an independence that will take them through the years.