Spending a summer at a sleepaway camp is a fun way for campers to gain a new sense of responsibility and independence. For many campers, their first summer camp experience is their first experience away from home. As they learn to navigate a new place, adhere to a new schedule and new rules, and adapt to many new personalities, they gain a sense of independence that will help them mature and grow in new ways. However, the kids aren’t the only ones who do some growing over the summer. When parents say goodbye to their kids for the summer, they get to see the result of all of their hard work, modeling, and teaching as their children go off without them. Although it’s a bittersweet moment, it’s a milestone for both parents and kids.
How Camp Fosters Independence In Children
Without their parents by their side, campers quickly learn that they are responsible for themselves. While counselors are around for guidance and support, campers are given clear expectations at the beginning of camp and are expected to follow these guidelines without being constantly reminded. Things like keeping their space tidy, respecting quiet time and mealtime rules, getting to places on time, and maintaining their personal hygiene are their responsibilities. They get a taste of freedom while still being carefully supervised. They are given the privilege of free time, in which they can pick which activity they’d like to do. They learn quickly that as long as they don’t abuse this privilege, they have many freedoms and choices in regards to their camp experience.
And while camp provides many sports, events, and activities to keep campers entertained, there are parts of the day that are unscheduled. Being at camp teaches campers how to productively manage this “downtime” without needing to be constantly entertained. Campers also learn independence during meal times, as they pick what they want to eat and are responsible for making healthy choices, not wasting food, and cleaning up after themselves.
Meeting new friends is part of the traditional sleepaway camp experience, and even this aspect of camp helps foster independence in children. Starting conversations with strangers, working well with others, resolving differences with respect, and being inclusive of others are all things campers experience at Camp Starlight. They do most of these things on their own, and the relationships they build are authentic and based on their own personal connections with their peers. For many of the younger campers, their parents are still very active in creating social connections, but at camp, they learn to make friends all on their own.
What Camp Does For Parents
It’s common to see parents a little teary-eyed as they say goodbye to their kids on the first day of camp. It’s a significant milestone; trusting your child to go off into the world and hoping you’ve equipped them with everything they need to be successful. Thankfully, this is camp, not college, and your children will be surrounded by people who can help guide them and steer them towards positive decision making.
By “letting go” for the summer, parents have time to reflect on the types of people their children are becoming, and can finally see the results of all of their hard work as parents. Seeing how successful your child is at camp can help you feel comfortable giving them more responsibilities and freedoms at home. Hearing about how you child felt confident making their own choices and decisions at camp and how he/she enjoyed being independent can make it easier for you to give your child more independent in other aspects of his/her life as well.
Although this expanding independence is a sign that your baby isn’t a baby anymore, it also means that they have absorbed the lessons you’ve taught them are applying them correctly. The whole idea behind parenting is to raise happy, healthy, and productive people who can work independently within society. Camp Starlight helps with this.
Spending the summer at camp is one way children can begin to spread their wings, find their sense of self, and discover who they are as individuals. Giving campers this independence is crucial for their self-esteem and self-worth, and is a great practice run for when they are finally out on their own. Going to camp is an emotional milestone, but a powerful one that parents and campers will remember forever.