Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Should You or Shouldn't You (Send your kid to camp)

Thinking about sending your kid to camp this summer? I highly recommend it; both of my kids went to camp for years. It was the highlight of their summers, so much so that they even earned their own monies (babysitting, part-time jobs, etc.) to pay for all or half of camp when it didn't fit in the family budget. Kendall's even going to return to camp this summer to work in her dream job as a summer camp counselor at Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya, the "place of friends," because she had so much fun being a Counselor-in-Training

as well as a Junior Counselor the year after that.

Kendall recently shared 7 Reasons Why Your Middle Schooler Needs Camp. It's a really great article; I highly recommend it.

Got reservations about sending your kid to overnight camp? Here are some of my arguments against them:

He won't know anybody. Every summer, millions of kids go to camp for the first time, away from their families, and they survive. In fact, they even thrive. Of course, I wouldn't recommend forcing a kid to go to camp, but reservations on your part or your child's can be addressed. Your child will make friends at camp; trust me,

and if you just can't stand the thought, get one of his friend's parents to send their kid, too.

I don't think my child will be able to handle being away from home. Even though there were plenty of kids at camp when I went, I remember feeling lonely at times. I remember concocting a headache to get some attention at the nurse's office. However, the loneliness I sometimes felt was completely overshadowed by the fun I was having. I also remember feeling pretty proud of myself for being away from home and surviving it. Sleepaway camps help kids build confidence in themselves. Yes, especially the first time, your child may feel homesick at camp. There is no need to protect your child from ever feeling lonely or homesick; it's a part of life, and they may develop some resiliency and independence as a result.

I don't think I could handle my kid being away for so long. (Yes, I'm serious.) I'm sure there is a small part of your parent self that also makes you worry about how your child would be doing without you, especially for the first time. I can't speak for all camps, but the one I'm familiar with posts photos every single day for parents who have separation anxiety or just for those (like me) who are just curious about how things are going or might like to order photos for printing. They even allow parents to send emails to kids (every day, if you're that attached, but try to resist; this is their time).

It costs too much money. I realize that camp can be cost-prohibitive for many families, but I'm living proof of the benefit of going to overnight camp, even just one summer; it changed my life in that I got a glimpse of what could be. Years later, my camp memories from that single week were like an oasis for me in a life that was far from idyllic, and that is priceless.  Also, many camps (especially non-profits like the YMCA) have discounts or scholarships for families with financial need. When I went, I went on scholarship, for example. As a parent, I remember thinking that for the cost of a week at camp for one of my kids, our whole family could go somewhere for a day or two. That's why, in their later years, we told the kids they'd have to pay their own way if they wanted to go badly enough, and they did. I highly recommend finding a way to make camp happen at least once.

If you were to ask me, I'd say that one of the best things about camp is that it gives kids a care-free place to be; that was my favorite part about being a camper at Uni when I was twelve. As the article suggests, camp lets kids see that the world is bigger than their homes, their schools, their communities, and even (in some cases) their states. Even if your child has nothing to escape (lucky kid!), he or she will appreciate the unique culture of camp and could be forever changed.

I have two other great aspects of camp that serve as reasons to send your kids to camp. One is that many (most?) camps force kids to "unplug," technology-wise, thus giving them social opportunities that force them to actually talk to each other. Another great point about camp (with which I'm sure Kendall would agree) is that girls who go to camp eventually realize that makeup has no place at camp; they can simply be themselves. Basically, camp can take a kid to a simpler time that you and I remember as being a pretty cool time.

Of course, I could be wrong; my only experience has been with Girl Scout day camps, Boy Scout camp, and good old Camp U-Nah-Li-Ya. However, I'm pretty sure there are camps changing lives all over the country.

For more food for thought about sending your kid to camp, check out:

5 Life Lessons Learned at Sleepaway Camp
Is Overnight Camp the Right Option?
How to Choose a Camp
and many more articles at the American Camp Association

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