Lessons From Camp

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101Summer camps can be great experiences for kids. I have fond memories of learning to ride horses, going white water rafting, hiking in the mountains, singing silly camp songs, and walking back to bunkhouses arm-in-arm with friends after dinner.

Camp is a great time for kids to try new things, make new friends, and ideally, be away from their parents’ scrutiny. Yes, there are bug bites and sunburns and things that can happen, but generally, kids are pretty safe at camp. We firmly believe that “no news is good news” and want our kids to let loose and live a little.

I was surprised by an article in the Wall Street Journal last summer about parents who checked web sites daily for pictures and videos of their kids while away at camp. They had pre-arranged “signals” for the kids to let their parents know they were having fun, and if anything looked awry (such as seeing the kid in the same shirt for several days in a row), the parents quickly placed a call to the camp director to complain. (‘Are You Having Fun at Camp?’ Parents Scrutinize Photos for Clues – Wall Street Journal).

So maybe they wear the same socks every day for a week. Or forget socks altogether (yes, we’ve had both of these things happen…sometimes you just throw away the clothes and shoes when they get home instead of trying to wash them!) But they will definitely have new and different experiences than you could ever provide for them at home. And the underlying message to your child is that you trust them to make good decisions without your guidance, and that you expect them to take responsibility for themselves.

We’ve seen our kids fully immerse themselves in every aspect of camp and we’ve also seen our kids do the same thing every day for an entire week. They learn both the need to reign themselves in occasionally and also that they need to branch out and not be afraid of new things as well.

Having a child away at camp also changes the dynamic at home. The kids at home get a little more individualized attention, which can also turn into great opportunities for some one-on-one time (see my post on One-on-Ones).

One summer in particular, we were blessed with having all of the kids away at the same time, and Steve and I were able to take a mini-vacation. Of course, by the time we paid for all 4 kids to have a week away at camp, we couldn’t afford to go anywhere exciting, but it was sure nice to have that time as just a couple!

So let go a little, send them off with great joy and expectations, trust in both your children and the adults around them to provide good guidance, get ready for all the funny stories that will come out sooner or later, and know that you have encouraged your children to take a step into the world around them.

And brace yourself for the laundry.

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