My grandchildren are now at an age when they say, “I can do it myself,” and they really mean it.It’s exciting watching them take their own lives in their hands one activity at a time. Summer camp give kids a great chance to develop a next stage of independence. The trick is to match the right kid with the right camp.
I am a big fan of summer camp and have some thoughts for you while you sit down to plan summer activities for the kids.
Summer Camp a Passport to Independence
It’s popular to say that when we raise children, we need to give them roots and wings. There are many books and articles that talk to parents about giving them security and roots. The general message, and one I share in my book Who’s In Charge Anyway?is that parents need to set the standards of their children’s behavior; when kids have the security of knowing there is a caring and thoughtful adult in charge, they will be able to get on with the job of developing into healthy adulthood.
But what about wings? How do we do the more difficult job of raising them to become capable adults and then let them go? When a baby is born, the first sign of health and life is the sound of her cry as she takes her first breath. Until this time she has been a part of her mother; they have been one and now they are two. This breath is the start of her independence.
As we give our children roots, we need to understand that these roots are designed to give kids the strength to eventually fly on their own.
Summer camp is a golden opportunity for our children to develop independence. Camp is great because it’s designed to meet the developmental needs of your children by providing challenges and opportunities appropriate to their age, all under supervision and structure from trained leaders.
I can still see my own children heading off to camp. In each case, a nervous and excited little kid would board the bus or boat. As it pulled away, they would be frantically waving at us, suddenly not sure whether they were really ready for this step. I never cried until they were out of sight.
Then my husband and I would have to figure out how to spend the next two weeks out of contact except for the odd letter. And some of those letters from camp are truly odd.
Two weeks later, my daughter Chelsea or son Foley would return, and we would be waiting anxiously. We wanted to scoop them up immediately, but they would wave us off. They had to say good-bye to their camp friends, and they had to collect their stuff. They were almost back with us but not quite yet.
Each time they went to camp they came home with increased self-confidence and a sense of triumph,having grown as independent people. They had made it. They had made it without us and (because they went to different camps) without each other, and they had fun doing it. And they could choose to tell us about it, or not.
Now I learn that some camps are wired. They put cameras around the campsite so Mom and Dad can take a look and see what’s happening. You can simply go on-line, check out the waterfront, arts and craft area or main hall and watch your child as she experiences the joys of summer camp. I suggest you avoid these camps. They’re missing the point!
An important component of raising our kids to become independent young people is trusting that they can move through each developmental stage. slowly becoming more capable.
As caring, responsible parents, you need to do your homework. Make sure that you choose a camp that you trust. Then let go.
And, it may not be easy. But it’s our job. Letting go is a process that takes about eighteen to twenty years. It starts with that first breath and probably never totally ends. But you know you’ve done the job well on the day he moves into his own place where he pays the rent and is in charge of his day-to-day living.
Let your kids go to camp. You won’t regret it, and neither will they.
Digital Books Make Parenting Information More Accessible.
Next time you’re sitting in the doctor’s office, lying on the couch fighting a cold or on transit and wish you had something to read, think about Parenting Today’s digital parenting books.
You can choose from Who’s in Charge Anyway? which talks about roots. It provides a clear road map for parent to focus on the tough but rewarding job of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined adults.
But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Hometalks about raising children to become capable young men and women.Vive la Différencefocuses on specific parenting issues.
The first two are also available in print. Just log onto the store on the site and they are yours for the reading.