“You send your daughter away for seven weeks? Why?”
This is the common response I get when I answer their question of what my girls are doing for the summer. For the past 5 years, my now 12-year-old has gone away to sleep over camp. From the very moment she first arrived, she has breathed, lived and existed for camp. From the moment she comes home till the moment she returns the following year, she yearns for camp. Despite her obvious love of camp, as a parent, I still get looks of disbelief, suspicion and misgivings when I tell them that from the age of 7, my daughter has gone away for the whole summer. And the question most asked is why.
Sending your child away is always hard, even it’s to a camp I know she loves (and one that I attended for 12 years as a child). But the benefits that I see, in her behaviour, confidence, independence and self-esteem far outweigh any concern I have about missing her and not being there for all the moments of her life. So when thinking about the why, here are the reasons I’ve come up with:
- Responsibility: While there are counselors at camp to help children move successfully through their day, being away from home will give your child a strong sense of responsibility. They are expected to pick up after themselves, keep their beds and shelves neat, keep tabs on their possessions and take care of themselves. Not only have I seen these skills transfer to my daughter’s behaviour at home, I have also noticed a sense of respect for what I do for her at home during the year.
- Tolerance: When you are sleeping and living in a cabin or tent with 5, 10 or 15 other kids, it’s inevitable that there will be personality differences that get in the way of friendships. By living in an environment that necessitates learning tolerance and acceptance for those you may have personality conflicts with, you learn a valuable skill that will undoubtedly last your child a lifetime. As a parent, I’ve always tried to stress to my daughters that they don’t need to like or be friends with everyone but they do need to be respectful at all times. Learning to cope with those you may not like at camp helps to solidify this lesson.
- Independence: In today’s world, there are many helicopter parents who are afraid to let their children walk to the park on their own (ok, I admit I’m one of them). But at camp, in a controlled environment, my daughter gets to feel that she’s on her own and responsible for making her own decisions. She thinks that she’s able to walk where she wants, when she wants to and I know that she’s in a safe place to be allowed to do so.
- Friendships: At camp, when you live together for two months, it’s hard not to make life-long friends. To create friendships created out of shared experiences and a sense of mutual dependence. It’s an opportunity for your child to branch out from their regular circle of friends and learn how to connect with other kids in positive ways.
- Self-esteem: When a child learns and masters a new skill, they feel good about themselves. Camp is all about learning new skills and having new experiences.
- How to work together: Whether it’s cleaning the cabin or working together on a canoe trip or trying to win a camp-wide competition, camp is made up of a community of campers, counselors, instructors, and the camp director. At camp, your child will learn to live and get along with children from a variety of backgrounds
- Learning to Slow Down: With no technology or electronic devices allowed at camp, kids learn how to slow down, write actual letters, play cards, take walks and appreciate the wonder of the world around them. By unplugging and relaxing, they learn how to appreciate the slow lane for a while.
There you have it. My 7 reasons for sending my daughter to camp. This year she won’t be alone, however. This year, her younger sister will be tagging along with her.
What are your reasons for sending your child to camp?
- The Power of Camp (goldarrowcamp.wordpress.com)
- Motherlode Blog: Why Camp Counselors Can Out-Parent Parents (parenting.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Choosing the right camp for your kids ()
- “Kidsickness”: Help for First Time Camp Parents (sunshineparenting.wordpress.com)
- Kids and Camp (childhoodstudies.wordpress.com)