Kids at summer camp: Fostering positive growth and development
Kids Summer Camp
From Abilene to Austin and from Tyler to Terlingua, there are summer camps for Texan children that fit the bill for just about every kid and parent’s interests and desires. There are faith-based as well as secular camps, sports-based and music camps. This list alone, published on www.MySummerCamps.com, includes 512 places where your son or daughter can make new friends, explore nature and history, and learn some independence from mom and dad while finding their role and place in their summer camp group. As wonderful as it may be to send kids off to summer camp, many parents experience anxiety. In today’s society there are more “helicopter parents” than in years past and we are often encouraged to keep aware and in control of every moment of our children’s days, from dawn to dusk. Sending them off to camp can be a healthy and positive experience for children and parents who learn to cope with periods of separation.
Focusing on the opportunities to learn and grow at camp, outside traditional environments
Children easily define their identities as functions of their surroundings. From what school they attend, to the vehicle that brings them there and back to the home in which they host sleepovers and guard their favorite toys, the “here and now” defines reality for most children.
When they go off to camp, kids get to be kids and less a function of their life at home with family and their neighborhood and school friends. Think of summer camp as the great equalizer, where all kids are the same and want to have fun and socialize with others, expressing their independence and finding their identity.
Summer camp can challenge children who realize they do not have their parents there to take up for them if there is a problem with another kid, or a moral dilemma or decision the child must handle on their own. Of course the counselors are never far away, but they have their hands full. While your son or daughter could experience some temporary emotional trauma over arguably trivial things that happen among children, most are resilient and bounce back quickly. For others, there may be an experiential learning curve, requiring a little back up and advice from their parents.
Keeping in touch with your kid at camp, without hovering, or maybe just a little hovering
Not more than 10 years ago there were very few children at summer camps with cell phones and mobile devices with which to keep in touch with parents. There may have been a camp telephone for emergencies, and many kids would have died with embarrassment if their parent was calling them. Writing letters to moms and dads about camp, is becoming a long lost tradition; it just is not the same printing a text message or email to put in a keepsake box.
The expectations of frequent communication among parents and children are facilitated by technology; where the street lights coming on used to be the signal to get home, a text from mom or dad is more than sufficient these days. As we drop kids off at camp and trust the staff and counselors there, we as parents might benefit from giving children the space they need to be on their own for a moment, without checking in with parents by text or email on the top of every hour. Many parents let their children know how and when they plan to check in, and stick with the plan, while being flexible and understanding that kids get busy at camp and might forget or not have time to text, call or email mom or dad.
When feeling sad about the separation from your child, it is tempting, when communicating with them, to be emotional to them; being away at camp can be as difficult for a child as it is for their parent. Some parents and those who coach parents and children find it selfish to focus on how much they miss their son or daughter while they are away, and otherwise chose to focus on questions about what activities the child is doing, and how it is going with the other kids at camp and new friends. Then, when they come home from camp, shower them with love and kisses.
Summer camp friends may be the first in many groups of new friends in a variety of environments
Making a new set of “camp friends” is good for children. Your son or daughter may keep in touch with friends from camp who come from all over to attend summer camp. When children appreciate the opportunity to maintain friend groups outside of the traditional set of kids in the neighborhood or at school, they can develop a greater world view. Going off to college, especially out-of-state, can be easier for children who are comfortable with a bit of separation and distance among their friend groups.
Encouraging children to keep up with their friends from camp may also open the door to diversity in thoughts and experiences. Imagine two kids meet at camp, one from the city and the other from the country. They may have little in common other than their mutual camp experiences, but they can learn from each other.
The Barrows Firm shares important information and resources about parenting issues and concerns that affect families in the DFW Metroplex. As kids go off to summer camp, parents have an opportunity to enjoy some couple time, and maybe work through some things, or just have fun with one another!
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