Even though he was kicking and screaming, I dropped off my older son at camp today. Now some parents might read this and be like, why would she do that to her child? I too was conflicted by this thought, and went back and forth in my mind as I was dropping him off, in between the good byes and the cries. However, I knew that even though he was upset and clingy now, he would end up having a great time at camp just like he did all the other days before. Finally we parted ways, which was heart wrenching as a mother to hear your child’s cries and have to walk away. But I knew it was the right thing to do, in this instance. (Of course I texted the counselors soon after to ensure he had calmed down, and thankfully they sent me a picture of him happy playing in the sand). I also was calmed down a bit after my husband reassured me we were doing the right thing. Both he and I work, and day camp allows us to continue to work during the summer.
Camp not only gives parents a break, and allows us to work, but both day and sleepaway camps are mutually beneficially to both camper and parent. There are many reasons why camp is great for your child, here are just a few:
Camp is a time to unplug and be active. Not only do parents appreciate this aspect, but kids do as well. Let’s face it, keeping up to date on Instagram and Facebook can be exhausting! Even kids feel this ‘stress.’ Camp is a nice break to be free from technology and just enjoy ‘real’ time with your friends and nature. Kids actually talk to each other face to face, come up with chants and cheers, play in the mud, play ball, tag, run around and just be ‘kids’ and enjoy each other’s company. This ‘real kid time’ is becoming such a rarity in these more and more all-consuming, days of technology. In between games of Capture the Flag, Gaga and Ping Pong, the kids create connections with other kids and counselors. Experts agree that these real friendships, not superficial “likes” on Instagram or “friends” on Facebook, are the meaningful connections that are critical to a child’s development.
Camp counselors can play a positive role in your kids’ life. “The relationships fostered at camp can have a tremendous influence on your child’s life, particularly from other kids and camp counselors,” says Michael Thompson, Ph.D., author of “Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow.” The child-parent dynamic is so intense that kids sometimes need a different type of modeling. Older campers and counselors are intuitive teachers, and much cooler to an 11-year-old than parents and they can hugely (positively) impact your child.
Camp helps kids’ development. According to Michael Ungar Ph.D., among the best known writers and researchers on the topic of resilience in the world, “Summer camps are perfect places to help children optimize their psychosocial development and help make children more resilient to life stress.” Summer camps are places where children get the experiences they need to bolster their range of coping strategies. There are the simple challenges of learning how to build a fire, go on a hike, or conquer a high ropes course. There are also the much more complex challenges of getting along with a new group of peers, learning how to ask for help from others, or take manageable amount of risks without a parent following after you.
Camp gives kids a new sense of self and independence. Camps offer kids a chance to feel like they belong. All those goofy chants and team songs, the sense of common purpose and attachment to the identity that camps promote go a long way to offering children a sense of being rooted. Camps also help children feel in control of their lives, and a renewed sense of independence, and they bring home those experiences of self-efficacy. We get that camp is not always full of ‘kumbayas’ and campfires, and just over-coming homesickness in itself, is a difficult feat with an enormous reward of self-independence, and something that a parent cannot teach their child. It’s one they must learn for themselves, and being in an environment like summer camp is an excellent way to do this. According to Dr. Ungar, “Children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem-solvers in new situations long after their laundry is cleaned and the smell of the campfire forgotten.”
For all of these reasons, camp should definitely be considered as part of your summer plans. I know some camps can be very expensive, so I’m not saying break the bank and send your kids to camp. But if you can afford it, it’s something that will help mold your child into a better being, and your kids will thank you for it.
*Dr Pops Tip: Make sure to include our Dr Pops All-Natural Lollipops in your child’s camp care packages. Packed with essential vitamins, these ‘treats’ will not only put a smile on your kids faces, but also boost their immune systems and help keep them from getting sick while away at camp.