Parents today may be considered very different from parents in other generations or from years past, but if there is one thing that is always consistent of parents, it is that they have a love and desire to give the best to their children in as many things in life as possible. While specific points may change and evolve from year to year or as children grow older, the general points of what parents desire remain the same and many of those points can be fulfilled through a summer camp experience. Some of the more common expectations that parents see summer camp fulfilling are as follows:
- Make Friends
- Gain Independence
- Unplug from the modern world
- Find activities or a hobby that a child might enjoy pursuing
- Learn Social Skills
1) Make friends. Parents want their children to gain as much experience as possible with social situations and the more practice that children are exposed to, the more versed they will become with working with others and the more prepared they will be to work with others as they get older and grow into adulthood.
Now, it should be rather obvious as well from a parent’s perspective that they want their child to be exposed to as many children as possible for the purpose of meeting and befriending other children, but the camp environment adds so much more to this experience, and it seems to allow for a much easier time in forming friendships.
What can account for this is most likely the amount of time that children are in proximity with one another as the camp environment allows children to be with other people for almost every minute of the day, or at least be under supervision. When you are spending this much time with other children and people, common interests and personalities can be discovered quickly and the relationships can begin building from that groundwork.
2) Gain Independence. When we speak about independence, there could be a couple different ways to speak about what to obtain it from. The first I would like to mention is independence from technology and end with independence for the person. It seems that independence is a trait that is elusive to obtain in the modern world given how co-dependent or how connected we have become to other people in social networks, through apps, etc. To have a few moments of peace away from distraction or stimuli appears as if to be a paradise, let alone having days or weeks of this state. And yet, the camp environment allows for just that. Now, many camps will have different policies as it comes to technology. Some, like Greeley, are no-screen camps asking children to leave behind their iPods, Gameboys, PSP’s and eReaders and some others have a limited amount of time devoted to technology which allows children to use their devices for short periods and then putting them away.
What everyone wants to focus on, however, is the detachment from these electronic devices. It’s funny to see how everyone seems to think that getting away from their phone or their game systems is a good idea, and yet, no one seems to do anything about it. Sure, there are people who will take short breaks from their devices, putting them down or out of sight for several minutes, but the inevitable pull back toward the device occurs and we cannot help ourselves but to look and be immersed again technology. Camp says “No” to all of that. We want children to experience what camp has to offer each and every day, and by living in this environment they learn to take initiative and care of their own self. For questions like “Who is going to make my bed,” the answer would be “You.” The daily camp life allows children the opportunity to speak for themselves and act in their own interest. A child wants to participate in an activity, but it’s currently full, or wants seconds at a meal time, for example, that child can ask for themselves if that is what they want. Now, they may not always get the answer they are looking for, like anyone in life, but the point is that they have an idea or a desire, and they act on that desire instead of settling or letting it slip away. Take advantage of every day and every opportunity that is before you. That is what we would like to instill in campers today.
3) Mentioned mostly in the previous point, unplugging from the modern world, seems to be more of a health concern in addition to a desire for relaxation in current times. We spend an inordinate amount of time on our phones, and that time seems only to be increasing as more and more apps become available on our phones that can do more and more. There are major health concerns related to our increased activity on the phone or with electronic devices such as poor posture related to the back, carpel tunnel syndrome, arthritis, worsening eyesight, disruption in sleep or eating patterns, and that is just to name a few. But as more and more studies are done relating social networking to depression and other mental health effects, our breaking away from technology is relating to our mental health as well. A happy mind leads to happy thoughts and a happy person, but when we become out of balance due to any factor, we become out of balance on the whole and our whole person suffers as a result. As with social media, people begin comparing themselves to others and begin to feel worse about themselves. I have mentioned negative self-talk extensively in other writings, but it is no less true here, too. What we think affects how we are, and when those thoughts turn negative, it hurts us deeply and will affect those around us as well. It’s time to limit the time on the phone and social media and step into the day to see what is around us.
4) Find activities and hobbies that we might enjoy. There is a lot of activity at camp with so many different things to do each and every day. Those activities can range from athletics, performing arts, creative arts, to circus, and more. It’s amazing to see how kids who have had no prior experience doing a certain activity can gravitate to these activities that they end up mastering. I use the example of trapeze all the time of seeing campers who had no experience and never had been on a trapeze suddenly go from doing a simple swing with a harness to doing tricks without one. I think this is a time in campers’ lives where everything can be an adventure and if a child is able to find that one thing they really like doing and continue to do it, that talent or ability can turn itself into a career or a second job or something similar later in life. We see how early children are being pushed into activities by parents who are looking for the next Michael Jordan or Derek Jeter, but at least at camp, we are giving the kids an opportunity to grow at their own pace in something they have had a hand in choosing for themselves.
5) Learning social skills. Much of our interaction with each other anymore seems to be online or through some technological device. Whether it be our phone, PC, laptop, a headset, etc., our interconnectedness is actually pushing us away from each person we interact with. As a result, children today are worse off in social interactions than in generations past. Trying to speak to someone who is in front of you and seeing their person is a lot different than speaking with other people in a chat room and through a keyboard typing away. Sometimes we forget that the other lines of dialog we read in a forum or a chat are coming from another person, someone who is typing on a keyboard like you would be, or like how I am doing right now while writing this. Camp is a way to force interactions between people and groups of individuals. Whether we like it or not, we wake up next to people in a bunk and go to bed with everyone else as well. It’s close proximity living and there can be good and bad that will result from that, but every good and bad is an interaction and with each interaction we can get more and more experience in being with and around other people.
By Matt Buynak Jr. (5/19/2016)