Camp is a place where kids can develop who they are and grow more independent. They can manage choices and decisions in a safe, nurturing environment and develop new interests. “Camp is the perfect place for kids to practice making decisions for themselves without parents and teachers guiding every move,” (Rockbrook Camp for Girls, n.d.). They can explore their own identities and develop a deeper sense of self.
Let’s explore some of the ways campers develop independence at SNJ:
Getting along with a new group of peers.
Because SNJ places tremendous focus on building community, campers learn to support others who are trying new things. Also, the pressures of who they are at school or home tend to fall away and they can really discover who they are. The quest for self-discovery in a strong community leads campers to have a peeked interest in their peers, which creates deep, lasting friendships. Many of our campers exchange email addresses or become friends on Facebook so they can stay connected during the school year. They leave camp with a peer support system that stays strong all year long!
Camp is a place to take manageable risks.
Parents want their children to develop a “can do” attitude. That can only be done if they are faced with challenges they can complete. SNJ has plenty of age and skill-level appropriate challenges for our campers to conquer every day. For some of our campers, they feel comfortable stepping out of their comfort zone because of the peer and counselor support they receive at SNJ. For some, being in a new setting (our remote 1,500 acres of yellow pine forest) helps them feel relaxed and readies them to try new things. We also seize every opportunity to celebrate successes, big and small!
They are responsible for their own needs.
At camp, campers do things for themselves. When it’s time to go swimming, they gather their bathing suit, towel, sunscreen and goggles. When swimming is over, they take those things back to the cabins. When they feel responsibilities are delegated to them regarding things like hygiene, getting ready and eating meals, they rise to meet them. Of course, the staff are always there if they need help, and asking for help also builds independence.
Camp helps kids find balance in their lives.
At SNJ, campers have a jam packed schedule, from heading off to morning activities, signing up for camper’s choice activity blocks, practicing their skit for the last night campfire, to gearing up for a game of capture the flag. They know their schedule and responsibilities and this helps them feel in control. Because we build a strong community, campers also learn to balance the different personalities and backgrounds of their fellow campers in a respectful manner. These skills will help them be independent in their young adult lives.
It can certainly be difficult for parents to send their child away to camp, but there are so many opportunities for growth during their time away, like developing independence. Upon returning home, parents will notice changes in their campers that make it worth what can be some challenging days apart. Through every step of their camp experience, our campers are guided by highly trained and qualified staff. These individuals are not quite seen as teachers, but not quite seen as peers. They strike an important balance in between that allows them to support our campers while fostering their independence.
Borelli, L. (2013). How summer camp helps develop your child’s mental health and resilience. Retrieved from http://www.medicaldaily.com/how-summer-camp-helps-develop-your-childs-mental-health-and-resilience-246970
NYMetro Parents. (2013) How camp helps kids gain confidence and independence. Retrieved from http://www.nymetroparents.com/article/how-summer-camp-helps-kids-grow-in-confidence-and-independence
Rockbrook Camp for Girls. (n.d.). Why camp is great for children. http://www.rockbrookcamp.com/parents/children-camp-great/