January 6, 2010

Great Parents Send their Kids to Camp

“You’re sending Sophia to camp for TWO WEEKS?”

Shock is a common response camp parents get when discussing camp plans with other parents. Some people even infer that they are “bad parents” to allow their children out from under their supervision. In this “helicopter” parenting age, the thought of allowing an eight year old to go away to camp for two weeks is incomprehensible to people who don’t understand the value of camp. What these “non-camp” parents don’t understand is that allowing your child a camp experience is a gift that has positive, life-long benefits beyond learning how to sail or rock climb. Camp parents aren’t bad parents who “send their children away.” Instead, they are great parents who let their children spread their wings.

Here are some of our 2008 campers’ responses to the question, “What did you learn at camp?”
“It was so much fun, and I learned to be responsible.”
“I learned I could do more than I thought, and I grew up a lot in two weeks.”
“Better leadership skills.”
“I learned different ways to get along with other campers.”
“I belonged here. I found myself.”
Believe in yourself. And try everything.”
“I became more outgoing.”
“I learned how to interact with people better.”
“Set a goal and achieve it.”
“I really learned to face my fears and to just always have a good time.”
Approach someone. Don’t wait for them to approach you.”
“To work as a team.”
“I got the courage to be a lot more outgoing.”
“To enjoy the present, instead of worrying about the future.”
“I learned when you voice an opinion, people listen.”
“I became more confident.”
“I learned what good friends are.”
“What I learned is that you never back down, and try your hardest.”
“I always make new friends and have so much fun.”
“That I should try new things, because chances are, it’s fun.”
“I love meeting new people and I love the outdoors and the mountains.”
“If you stay positive, you’ll have fun no matter what you do.”
“It changes me as a person A LOT!”
“I learned how to be a better person.”

While disconnecting from technology, campers learn to relate better to other people, face to face, without headphones on or a cell phone in hand. Campers experience a break from the pressures of academics, competitive sports, and overscheduled lives. One camper said about her time at camp, “I don’t go through the pressures that are in the ‘real world’.”

Gaining a love and respect for nature, experiencing fun, bonding time with others, and improved independence and responsibility skills are just a few of the many benefits of a camp experience. Further, camp experiences at younger ages may help children adjust to later experiences, such as going away to college.
Recently, a Stanford Magazine (May/June, 2009) article published results of research on the psychological health of current University students called “Students on the Edge.” Here is an excerpt: “Unlike previous generations, young people often speak with their parents several times a day. And while family closeness is usually a positive force, it can come with a downside. Administrators at Stanford and elsewhere describe a level of parental involvement that often limits choices and has altered the cultural norms of college life. That includes parents who insist on choosing their child’s area of study and then show up to negotiate his or her salary after graduation.”

As parents today, we have been told that great parenting means being super-involved with our children and always being in constant communication with them. But when does it end? There are some benefits to this parenting style, including the close family relationships we have developed. However, as the article quoted above suggests, there are downsides to our “helicopter” parenting. Primarily, our children have more difficulty developing the independence, problem solving, and decision making skills that will be crucial to their happiness and success as an adult. Camp is one antidote that many great parents choose.

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