It’s that time again. The home stretch to the last day of school is rapidly approaching, the weather is getting warmer and as parents we begin to worry and dread the ‘I’m bored’ summer drama. One way to avoid this and add some enriching life skills to your child’s life is by sending the kids to summer camp. Summer camp is like vacation for kids and the best part is that parents too get a short vacation from the stress and perils of child rearing. Absence makes the heart grow stronger and a week or two at summer camp may be just what you need to recharge your parental batteries and remind your children (gently of course) just how good they got it at home. Probably most convincing is that kids love it!
Summer camp can serve as a life altering experience for youngsters. They get to meet new people and learn how to make friends while spreading their wings with a sort of independence that can’t be acquired anywhere else. It isn’t like a week at the beach with their best friend. It is like a week or two of living real life and being exactly who they want to be. They get to make the rules when it comes to their personality and are not tied down by predetermined opinions or labels of who they are. Spending time at summer camp teaches kids many things. One of which, is that they are absolutely okay without their family foundation at their heels. When a child learns that they can survive and even be happy away from mom, dad and sis they find a feeling of security in this world.
Not to mention, summer camp has come a long way since you were a child. Today’s summer camps are all inclusive resort like functions that give children first hand opportunities to truly experience their interests. For every interest big and small there is a summer camp tailored just for your child. Recent postings of summer veterinary camps, space camps (allow them to be real astronauts), science camps, book reading camps, equestrian, swimming and even clown camps are just a few of the options that you will find. One of the nicest qualities is that these summer camps allow children focused and direct detailed interactment with activities that they find interesting. Who knows, summer camp may be just the thing to get your kid really thinking about their future. Anything and everything is made possible at summer camps. Your children should definitely be a large part of the selection process so that they have some ownership of where and how their time is spent. This will allow them to have the best experience possible.
A psychological research study showed that pre-teens who attended summer camps were more likely to drive away from drugs and alcohol and had increased levels of self esteem. Perhaps this is mostly due to the fact that they are being raised by parents who are willing to let go a bit and allow their children to find themselves. It can take a lot of courage to suddenly hand your kid and their belongings over to people that you don’t know and trust. Sure, there are risks. Especially if your child is hiking in the big outdoors. But the benefits that your child will gain are worth it. The Better Business Bureau has designed a brief questionnaire that all good parents should ask when inquiring about a summer camp. In addition to that, they recommend choosing a camp that is certified by the American Camp Association. Before sending kids to summer camp, be sure to find out the following:
- Cost, location, options of camp length and what is included for the price
- Age groups of camp participants. If the ages are spread out, find out exactly how things are divided. An 8 year old doesn’t need to be spending time with 12 year olds.
- Co-ed or gender specific? Depending on the age of your child, you want to ensure that co-ed camps are suitably divided. Be direct and specific when asking questions.’
- You should learn about the camp director, their background, education etc.’
- How are the staff trained and selected? How many kids are there to each group of counselors?
- Aside from the camp theme, what other recreational options are offered. How is food preparation and serving handled? How many meals a day are furnished?
- Are their safety measures in place? What kind of medical facility is on site, closest hospital and is there a trained doctor or nurse on site?
- A detailed overview of the daily schedule. You don’t want to pay to have your child watch TV for 3 hours a day.
- Is visitation allowed? What are policies in regard to phone calls and mail? Are cell phones permitted?
- How is homesickness handled? Your kids are sure to get homesick and although you don’t want it to be celebrated, you want to know that you child feels safe. Can they come home if they want to?
Beyond those basic questions you may want to take some time and visit the camp facility before dropping off your child. Many parents opt for visiting the camp the year before while it is in session so they can get a realistic bird’s eye view of what really goes on at camp. Do some investigating of your own as well. Contact the local Sheriffs department where the camp is located and ask for all emergency records pertaining to the camp. These are open records and will serve to inform you if there are frequent problems or injuries at the camp. Remember that your child, even while away, depends on you to make responsible decisions toward their care. Another word to the wise, in order to get the best and most well rounded experience for your child, forego sending them with close neighborhood or school pals. This will deter them from branching out and growing socially with other campers.
Lastly, when sending kids to summer camp try not to think about your own summer camp. You may have had your first kiss, met your first boy/girl friend, snuck out at night to skinny dip, or got into some sort of unsupervised trouble. You ended up okay and so will your child. Summer camp is like a playground of youth where children of all ages are encouraged to bloom. Blooming always entails some sort of mischief and testing of the boundaries in life.
When the kids come back as hard as it is not to- don’t pry. Allow your children to have some sort of internal life that is all their own. In due time (when they are 30) they will probably tell you about some of their wild and wacky experiences at summer camp and thank you for allowing them to go. Trusting our kids to go to summer camp says a lot about who we think they are as people and what kind of kids we feel that we have raised. When the family is all back together, there will be a few weeks (at least a few days) of a honeymoon period where everything seems right in the universe again. Enjoy that too, as it will not last that long.