The Camping Experience
We’re considering our family’s plans for the summer, and a friend suggested that camp could be really good for our kids. What are your thoughts?
Your friend is right. Summer camps are a great idea for a number of reasons. For instance, kids are able to practice perseverance, patience, social skills, independence, problem-solving, cooperative skills, and communication, all while in a fun and adventure-filled environment.
Camps are available to meet a wide variety of interests and needs. For the intellectually curious child there are camps that focus on just about everything, from archaeology to entrepreneurial leadership, computers to language immersion. Others concentrate on individual sports (football, basketball, volleyball, etc.). Some camps are dedicated to serving children with special needs or specific health problems, such as asthma, cancer, or epilepsy, as well as kids with developmental or cognitive disabilities. There are camps centered on adventure and physical challenge (like backpacking, rafting, and other outdoor pursuits). Others are faith-based, many with a distinct denominational emphasis, which put an accent on spiritual growth. Additionally, some summer camps are day-only camps while some are overnight; some are week-long, and others run just over a weekend. Once you consider your children’s needs, interests, and preferences, you can select a camp that can help them explore what is valuable to them.
This said, it’s also important for parents to be patient with kids who have a more anxious personality, as well as younger children (4th grade and under). Don’t push younger kids into attending overnight camps. It’s good to start with short day camps, moving on to full day camps for young children and apprehensive or anxious kids. Fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-graders are at great ages to start going to overnight camps and to begin experiencing independence. Earlier than that may be rushing young, sensitive kids into very stressful situations they may come to dread as they hit teen years. Later pre-teen and teen kids have the brain chemistry primed to begin practicing the healthy independence that overnight camps can offer.
With all this in mind, the experience of camp can be quite beneficial, providing an opportunity to equip and teach your children how to manage any fears that may arise. By keeping your focus on providing reassurance and encouraging your children to see the camping environment in new ways, you can help them come to overcome fear and to view camp as a potentially very fun experience.
In addition, this experience will help to teach your children how to be assertive and ask for what they may want or need. Assertiveness gives a child increased self-confidence and feelings of control and safety.
By the way, if you connect your children to at least one other child going to camp it can reduce your kids’ apprehension while helping to develop deeper bonds between your children and others. Talk with your children and consider your options, then make sure to save your kids’ place at the camp of your choosing. Your children will be glad you did.