There’s no better way for your kid to experience a summer of disconnection, growth, and confidence building than to go off to camp. My daughter heads to Maine each summer for seven weeks of outdoor activities, new friends, nature, and no phone. As for what she packs, she can only choose four outfits of her own to wear while she’s there. The rest of the time it’s brown shorts, a blue top, and a blue bathing suit. And you know what?
She loves it.
Confession time. I went to that same camp. And so did my mom. To this day, nothing defines me more than the lessons and friendships I made there during the summers. And while camp isn’t for everyone, when it is a good fit, it’s such a great gift!
So why is camp so amazing for kids, especially these days?
It’s like a back to the basics lesson on how to build confidence and grow friendships and handle things on their own. It’s a summer-long sigh of relief that they don’t need to check social media all the time. They’re able to have fun and try new things and solve problems by themselves without mom and dad there. Kids and teens are finally able to be in the moment without worrying they’re missing out on something!
And they’re so busy and happy that they don’t even mind that the technology isn’t there to tempt them! Seriously, where else on earth can our kids today go to experience that feeling?
Without the distraction of technology and the need to compare the coolest clothes and shoes and brand name whatever-the-latest-accessory-is, kids can be kids. And they can be themselves. Often, they get to be their best selves.
At camp, they’re experiencing nature, singing songs, and hanging out in groups of just-made friends without somebody ruining the conversation by pulling out their phone. (So rare, right?!) They’re talking about stuff that happened to them that day rather than watching YouTube videos or TV. (Oh yeah, there’s no TV at camp either!) They finally get to be present.
There’s competition at camp, as well as camaraderie, all in a safe place despite the fact that there are no parents around. They learn to trust others (each other and counselors), confide in new friends, and solve conflicts without resorting to texting mom or dad. And without parents hovering, watching, or evaluating them, they can take risks and try new things without worrying about the pressures they normally feel in their day to day lives. It’s no longer about being the best or making straight A’s or making you proud. It’s about making themselves proud.
Oh, and there’s no selfies or photo-snapping or Instagram to pose for, so connections and experiences are real and not just for the ‘gram. There’s no stopping to take a pic of the lake or their new friend group (or trying not to get their phone wet in the canoe). Kids are engaged in the activities of the day and their new relationships. Possibly for one of the first times ever in their lives, technology is totally irrelevant!
They’re gaining social skills with those first new friendships, fights, and camp romances. And summer camp, unlike school, doesn’t end at 3PM. If something’s wrong they can’t just wait for the bell to ring so they can go home or grab their phone and vent about it on Snapchat. Kids at camp have to communicate directly, so there’s much less #drama. But it’s not that there’s absolutely no jealousy or disappointment at camp – yeah, right! – kids just have to learn to deal with it head on while they’re there!
The friendships they make are crazy intense and strong for a reason. Kids and teens from all over are put together for four to eight weeks at a time, sharing bunk beds, hanging out all day long, trying new things together. They’re no longer worried about what class that girl is in or how old she is or if she’s cool enough to be seen with. Kids are away from their everyday lives in this camp life counterculture where there’s no materialism or consumerism. It’s no wonder these kinds of bonds are genuine and often last a lifetime.
While it’s true that camp can bring out the best in our kids and give them that much needed break from being constantly connected, camp isn’t for ALL kids. I know this personally because camp isn’t a good fit for my older boy and girl twins. You’ll have to talk to your kids to see if it sounds like something they’d enjoy, if it fits with their personality, and if they’d like to take that leap of being away for several weeks during the summer. It’s a great experience, but hey, it’s not for everybody!
And If your child is not interested, go ahead and think of other ways to have fun in nature, hang out with friends, and try new things for a few weeks during the summer without technology getting in the way.
Let’s make it the summer of old school parenting.