Elementary- and middle-school age kids get a lot out of summer camp: they make new friends, learn new things and get out of the house for a little while. But as kids grow up, we sometimes forget they still need those crucial experiences, just in a different form. Maybe you think of your teen’s summer as more of a work opportunity: babysitting, mowing lawns or lifeguarding at the pool. That summer job can be character- and wallet-building. But a one-week break, summer kickoff or endnote can be a nice change of pace. Here are some great benefits to teens attending summer camp:
- Learn how to give back. Community service camps offer a great chance for your teen to make a difference and help the community while also learning skills that will carry her through life. Kids get to spend their days helping others, which just feels good to everyone involved. Maybe your teen will learn how to pack food for the homeless, teach kids how to read or work on a project like cleaning up a playground or fixing equipment. She could even learn how to paint a house, care for a yard for an elderly person or plan and build a house for someone in need.
- Make new friends. It’s important to continue to grow and change, and adding new friends to one’s life enriches it at any age. Some teens attend the same camp or camps every summer and might find the same friends there year after year. Many are attending for the very first time and need to hone their social skills to make new friends and get to know other kids in their age range outside of a school setting. Being in close proximity for days or weeks helps kids get closer, faster.
- Learn new things. Whether your teen attends a camp to learn more about horses, adventure, a specific sport, or any other type of camp, they have an entire day, week or longer to focus on that one activity and really immerse themselves in it. Who knows? Your teen might find a new passion that he never thought of before that could be helpful in his educational or work life later on down the road.
- Deepen their faith. If your teen enjoys church youth groups and activities, a church or other organized religious camp might just be the ticket. The day might begin with a church service, followed by breakfast, a hike, some time spent in the cabin with friends memorizing Bible verses for a competition at the end of the week. Later there could be singing songs around a bonfire while roasting s’mores.
- Develop a hobby. When your child is unplugged from the TV, video game player, smartphone, etc., they can really focus on developing a hobby in a creative way. It seems like these days there’s a camp for pretty much any interest your kid has. There are camps for horse and other animal lovers, sports lovers of all types (think developing soccer skills, swimming, football, volleyball, baseball … anything!), Boy Scout camp (covers so many different hobbies and topics), Girl Scout camp (also covers so many great skills) … the list goes on!
- Work as a team. Your child will be meeting kids of different ages and from different backgrounds. Learning how to get along and work as a team is a huge life skill that will be reinforced at camp. Some camps even have kids do team–building and trust activities to help kids get to know each other.
- Stay active. Forget sitting around doing “screen time” all day long during the summer! When a teen attends summer camp, they often forget all about those things and focus on having fun with their friends going on hikes, paddle boating, swimming and more, depending on the camp they choose. Bonus points for activity if they choose a camp targeted to a sport your kid is passionate about.
- Stand on their own. Let’s face it: as our kids get older they start to grow away from us. They are simply preparing to head out on their own and they are also preparing you for that by perhaps being a little distant. They are stuck in between childhood and adulthood, and it’s a confusing time. Going away to camp for even a short time helps teach independence. There is a daily structure at camp that’s already in place that teens need to follow. Parents aren’t the ones doing the nagging so teens don’t tune it out and they learn to respect and learn from other adults.
- Appreciate everything. Away from screens (yes, I keep focusing on this one), it’s easier to focus on nature, learning, forming relationships and more. Being away from parents, kids will come home with a new appreciation for what it takes to be in a family and what it takes to help in the running of the household. Your teen will probably also appreciate funny things like a full pantry that’s open all day, their comfy bed and privacy!
Teen summer camp has so many benefits that cover all the bases, from physical, social, mental and spiritual. As for the rest of the summer? Well, your teen can spend plenty of time doing those odd jobs to help pay for camp next year!
Kerrie McLoughlin is the seasoned, homeschooling mom of five. Three of the kids have attended overnight camp and loved it!