You are considering summer camp options for your child and you've come to a road block. Your kiddo really wants to go to a sleep away camp and you aren't sure if he or she is ready for that. Worse yet, you aren't sure if you are ready for that. Before saying no right away, consider these five points to help you determine if sleep away summer camp is a good plan. If you need help determining which summer camp is best for your child, check out our post "11 Tips for Choosing A Summer Camp For Your Child."
Believe it or not, when your child is away from home, it allows for a beautiful growing experience for him or her. We want our children to grow up to be respectful, kind, and independent. Parents spend time teaching their children manners and we expect them to be helpful if they see someone struggling. We want them to maintain their own space and put away their own laundry. When kids are away from mom and dad or whoever else does things for them, it forces them to do things for themselves. As a camp counselor, I never went through a cabin of teenage girls and told them to throw their laundry on the floor so I could pick it up. Instead, if things started to get a little hairy looking, I'd remind the kids that they are responsible for their space and they took care of it. Going away from home teaches responsibility and that's a valuable lesson.
"Practice makes perfect." Though I sometimes don't like to admit it, that age old saying is quite true. If we want to allow our children to succeed, they need to be given the chance to practice all of the valuable lessons we have taught them. What better place than in a safe environment at camp? I can't honestly say that there are no personality clashes at summer camp, but I do feel smaller groups and attentive counselors have expectations that don't allow for much of this. In my experience, kids want you to like them. They desire your attention and, therefore, have an innate drive to behave themselves.
I used to tell my campers that this week can go one of two ways. 1. We could all have an amazing time doing really fun, incredible activities together and leave with life changing memories or... 2. We could spend time doing camp clean up because you all decided to be disrespectful. In which case, your only memory will be learning how to use a toilet brush. Yes, they chuckled and sometimes thought I was kidding (which I was... kinda), but for the most part, they realized they needed to be on their best behavior. Giving kids a time to use the skills their parents have poured into them is huge!
Believe it or not, as much as we parents need some space from our kids, they also need some space away from us. I am a firm believer that parents are their child's best caregivers. However, even the best caregivers get burned out sometimes. I know I some always get it right in the parenting department and I'm sure you've been there too. Giving your child a little space to be who they are is helpful for them to build self-esteem and quality relationships. It forces helicopter parents to give their kiddos a break from their constant coddling. It allows children to stand up for themselves and fight their own battles.
I'm not a great cook. (Sorry, family.) My family is well fed, but I'm not likely to win first prize on America's Top Chef. My mother, on the other hand, is a very good cook. The problem here is that every time I tried to cook at home, my mother would hover and tell me what to do. She never gave me the chance to experiment and problem solve for myself. Here I am fourteen years later, finally starting to get the knack of cooking. I needed to get out of my mother's house so I could try things out for myself. A little space isn't always a bad thing.
I may be a majorly lame mom, but it isn't very likely that I will sleep outside under the stars without an air mattress and a tent. Summer camp provides experiences that children won't likely get at home. Whether it's tech gear or zip lining or crafting pottery, new experiences help children gain knowledge and prepare them for their future. Don't let your kiddo miss out on life changing experiences just because of your insecurities. I know that it is easier said than done, but I don't ever want to be the parent who keeps my child from realizing his or her dream. Each new experience is an opportunity and could quite possibly be the one thing that makes your child find his or her passion.
Friendships are what makes the world go round. I'm so thankful to have many kind and loving people in my life. Some of the best friends I've ever made were friends I made at camp. It's a different kind of bonding experience when you share living quarters with another person or group of people. You learn more personal information about each other during late night talks and walks to the mess hall. Conversations aren't interrupted by the end of the day coming too soon. Then, after everyone has returned home, your kiddo can connect with his or her new friends through email or other social media. They could even make plans to reconvene next year at the same camp or try a new one. There is so much value in lifelong friendships.