I visit with over one hundred families each year. We spend time talking about camp, getting to know the best experience for their child, and asking questions back and forth. It’s rare that I leave the home and not here ‘Wow… to heck with my kid. I want to go to camp!’
After directing summer camp for seventeen years, I feel the same way! It really is a gift for our children; one that, should the camp be the right fit, bears fruit for years and years. Dr. Laurie Browne of the ACA explained the benefits of summer camp for kids better than anyone I’ve ever heard.
And camp is also a gift, in both the present and the future, for parents.
The Gift of Summer Camp - Present
Besides having one less kid at home? Do we really need more than that? (Knowing, of course, that your camper is a happy one….)
In our early years of running camp, parents would call about the party they’d enjoy the night their kids headed off to their ‘happy place.’ We’ve not heard that nearly as much lately and it’s a shame. Your camper is somewhere they’ll love, enjoy and remember forever. Go kick back and enjoy some time!
One of the main gifts of camp for you, the parent, is the time you can now spend on other relationships, interests, and hobbies, even if just for a few moments. While your child is off gallivanting at camp, you can do the same at home or on travels yourself.
A bit of separation from your child and all their plans also refreshes your feelings for them and gives you a chance to change your perspective on them.
I love our children more than I can adequately describe. And, when they get back from a long trip away, I’m always excited to see them. I find this separation makes me appreciate their unique gifts and being in a way constantly being together does not.
And, after a summer during which they’ve made their beds daily, learned to sail and cook and make new friends and deal with a conflict positively, I know I can give them more responsibility at home… and the rights that comes along with handling those responsibilities responsibly.
(One gift that is never spoken about but very real: if you ever wanted to do a top to bottom cleaning of their space, having a kid at sleep-away camp is the perfect opportunity!)
The Gift of Summer Camp - Future
Pro-tip: When your child returns home exhausted, emotionally spent, and happy, give them a bit of space.
I know you’ll want to dig right in and get every answer about the experience you’ve been imagining in your head for weeks. Fight that urge – give them a bit of time to decompress. (Plus, if things went really well, they’ll be camp-sick.)
Dr. Laurie Browne speaks incredibly well about the present future benefits of summer camp for campers. Increases in confidence, independence, empathy, and teamwork are evident. And, the more a child gets dipped in camp, the more lasting and powerful these outcomes become.
If you feel that your job as a parent is to prepare your child to be a competent, confident adult, send them to the camp that is right for them. (Here’s a link to my ideas on finding the right summer camp for your child.) There is literally no better place for children to grow from a social and emotional standpoint than the right summer camp.
By supporting your child to spend a summer at camp and honoring the gains they’ve made by modifying your parenting style, you’ll create a positive feedback loop that moves your child closer to that ultimate goal: being a competent and confident adult.
What better gift can you give yourself than that?