Sydney, 14, has lived in Port Washington, NY her entire life. She enjoys dancing and hopes to pursue a career in writing, the performing arts or medicine.
Yes, sending your child away to sleep away camp for the first time may be scary for the both of you, and, sometimes, more so for you. While it may be hard to let go for the first summer, not doing so would be depriving them of an amazing, and character shaping experience. So if it helps, here’s my take (as a seven year sleep away camper) on why you shouldn’t put it off any longer. Sleep away summer camp comes with many benefits that will ultimately help shape your child.
Without your parents around to keep your things in order, or the housekeeper making things tidy, keeping track of your possessions is all in your hands. Of course at camp you also need to make sure your area is neat, bed is made and cubbies are in order. Not only that, but keep in mind your child will be living with anywhere from 5 all the way up to 30 other girls or boys. In one cabin, where everyone shares, it gets hard to keep track of your stuff. From this aspect of sleep away, your kid will be taught responsibility. Additionally, when you reach a certain age at most camps, you might be assigned a camper to get in touch with before camp and look after throughout the summer. Now, your teen is responsible for not only themselves, but someone else as well.
From my experience at camp, I have come to the realization that not all personalities mesh oh so well. I have been living with a number varying between 20 and 30 girls each summer, and though we all love each other, our personalities sometimes clash. As friends, we have learned each other’s strong suits and learned how to live with everyone’s flaws, because no one is perfect. Learning to cope with everyone’s characteristics, such as who is sensitive and who forgets to think before they speak, has prepared me for the real world in which I’ll be faced with the same difficulty of working, or living with others.
How To Deal
Sometimes, you parents can be a little too… parental. And, though it’s not always bad, nobody likes the 15-year-old girl who’s mom gets involved because she can’t fight her own battles. How else is she supposed to learn how to deal with her own issues, like friend drama and getting in trouble, unless she’s placed into a situation in which she must. While away from home, with no parents to guide you, you will pick up the skill of solving your own problems. But parents do not freak out. There is always at least one person at camp who is there for the sole purpose of helping your child with things like this. At my camp, we have a go-to “Camp Mom”, because we’re still just kids, and some matters are just too big for us to handle on our own.
Independence goes hand in hand with How To Deal since you need one to have the other. Independence means someone is “capable of thinking and acting for oneself”. Being away from your family for weeks at a time may be hard at first, but it is essential to learning to act on your own. Making good choices and not depending as much on others are important qualities for later in life. Sometimes, being away from parents forces your child to make decisions on their own. Sometimes the decisions are wrong, but it’s all a part of the learning process.
Another amazing feature of sleep away camps is that you spend weeks at a time with little to no technology. Different camps have different rules, but most agree on no cell phones, gaming toys or anything with Internet access. Not having TVs in bunks forces kids to get outside, be active and socialize! Too many kids nowadays are hiding behind their laptops and making friends only through Facebook and texting. Social skills are essential for making friends, and at camp, your child will learn to do just that, minus the typed words and emoticons. They will also finally run around, play sports, hike (whether they want to or not) and spend some time off the couch.
So, you’re living with several other people for up to 2 months. You eat, sleep and play together. Summer after summer it is 24/7 with these kids. How can you not love them? Being in circumstances like these, you establish lasting bonds so strong, calling them “best friends” would be an understatement. You learn to trust others and care about people with all your heart. You make the most amazing friends that you know you will have for life, always there for you. In my opinion that is the most important thing you can get out of any summer camp experience.
So, if you’re tentative about shipping your child away, or feel guilty when they cry at the bus stop, or even when they beg you to take them home on visiting day, be strong. Keep in mind that they will cry much, much harder on the last day of camp because they had the summer of their lives, and all the while, were being molded into strong, independent children.