Most parents know that kids benefit tremendously from going to summer camp. But have you ever thought about how sending your kids to camp can benefit you— the parent? Based on my own experiences as a seasoned parent of summer campers, as well as conversations with other parents, I can assure you that camp is great for you too.
Parents are used to putting their kids first. From the moment they wake up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night, they’re constantly on our minds. What do they need? What can we do for them? Now, imagine that they go off to summer camp and the house is suddenly quiet. Here’s what happens: slowly but surely you begin to relax in a whole different way. Suddenly, you can hear your own thoughts, and that’ll give you the mental space to reflect on what YOU would like to do— to put yourself first for once.
Use that mental space to do things you’ve been wanting and meaning to do all year. Perhaps there’s a hobby you’d like to pursue. If the kids are at a sleepaway camp, you have the time to take that yoga or painting class, and you get to choose, all by yourself, whether you’d like to do it after work or on the weekend. Get together with some friends you haven’t seen for a while. If they have kids at camp, too, chances are that they’re available and eager to spend some time with you. Go on a romantic date or two with your partner. The possibilities are endless.
Being able to focus on yourself, your partner, and other people in your life who mean a lot to you is no small matter. As parents, we’re used to being responsible providers and caregivers. However, there’s so much more to a person: we’re also partners and friends. These are important parts of our identities that we need to remember to cultivate. Sending your kids away to summer camp may bring out a more playful side that you haven’t shown for a while.
Another great thing about sending your kids to summer camp is that the experience will give them an opportunity to develop and reach important developmental milestones without you being there every step of the way. They’ll become more independent, more mature, and much better at solving problems on their own. Trust me. Every time my now-teenage son came home from camp, I could tell that he’d grown in leaps and bounds. Seeing how your kids grow also makes you trust them more. You realize that they’re able to develop new skills and take care of themselves even when they’re not under your watchful eye.
Ultimately, summer camp is great preparation for the day that all parents will face: the day when their kids move out and they become empty-nesters. You will miss them a lot, and they’ll miss you too. But, if you’ve done your job well and you have developed deep and meaningful relationships with them, your kids will always come back to visit. Just like they will each year after summer camp.
Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders at The City University of New York – Brooklyn Colleges.
10 Things You May Not Know About Summer Camp
Each year, millions of children, youth, and adults head to the hills, lakes, valleys, and parks to participate in the time-honored tradition of camp. Here are ten of the things you may not have known about the camp experience.
- Camp is older than dirt, almost literally. Started in 1861, the camp experience turned an impressive 150 years young in 2011.
- Camp is worth its weight in gold, and then some! There is a camp for literally every budget. Often camps offer special pricing or financial assistance, and some camp experiences qualify for tax credits or for payment with pre-tax dollars.
- Green is “zen.” Research shows that first-hand experience with nature, like those at camp, reduce stress in children and help them better handle stress in the future.
- Mommies and Daddies do it too. Camp is not just for children and youth. There are family camp experiences, and camps for single adults, senior adults, and any adult that wants to relax and enjoy all camp has to offer.
- Try this on for size! Camp is a great place to try new activities and hobbies. Afraid of rock walls? According to ACA research, 74 percent of campers reported that they tried new activities at camp that they were afraid to do at first. In the same survey, 63 percent of parents reported that their child continued new activities from camp after returning home.
- Manners matter, and often linger. The camp experience teaches more than just archery or lanyard making. The entire experience is made of teachable moments, perhaps one of the biggest is how to live with a group of people.
- Veggies taste better with friends. Hollywood and fictional novels may have given camp food a bad reputation, but in truth, camps are constantly exploring healthy food options, and often are at the forefront of things like allergy specific diets, healthy snack options, and vegetarian meals.
- If everyone else went to camp, maybe there’s something to it! Camp has played an important role in the lives of some of the most talented people from Texas including Michael Dell, Ann Richards, Farrah Fawcett, and many others.
- Camp gets those neurons pumping! Research shows that participation in intentional programs, like camp, during summer months helps stem summer learning loss. In addition, camp provides ample opportunity for developmental growth, which is a precursor to academic achievement.
- Camp builds leaders for the 21st century and beyond! Independence, resilience, teamwork, problem-solving skills, and the ability to relate to other people — these are the skills that tomorrow’s leaders will need, and the skills camp has been adept at building for 150 years.
For more information on preparing your child for an independent, fun-filled summer, visit ACAcamps.org.
Article courtesy of American Camp Association.