As many kids have started summer camp, it’s inevitable that parents will begin thinking of every possible camp-related issue. Camp directors are commonly bombarded with questions such as “Which kids are in my child’s bunk/group?” and assumptions like “My child won’t get along with his/her group.” Rather than focus on the individual children in each group, parents should instead ensure their child’s camp provides responsible leaders and mentors to oversee foreseeable social development. Effective camp staff can guide children towards positive development, lasting friendships, and an unbeatable camp experience.
While camp is an important atmosphere for children to learn about teamwork and sportsmanship, all children, even those at camp, will experience “social growing pains” and may be placed in uncomfortable or new settings. As they grow, children encounter all types of minimal and major life situations ranging from daily squabbles to serious conflicts like bullying. As a parent, you may feel the need to step in and help your child escape these less than perfect circumstances. However, with the right leadership, camp staff can help guide your child though these situations while helping them grow along the way. Camp staff members are trained to help your child face conflicts head-on and in a responsible, rational, and respectful manner.
In order to ensure your camp is prepared to work with your child on social development, keep these thoughts and questions in mind:
• Learn about camp leadership, specifically your child’s direct group counselors. Ask about their history and experience at this camp.
• Ask about major strategies implemented for solving conflicts among campers (i.e. anti-bullying pledge).
• Ensure your child’s counselors are aware of any specific developmental needs or any past issues among bunk/group members.
• Prior to enrolling, ask questions to the directors of programming, athletics, and grouping to learn their techniques and priorities for handling social situations at camp.
• Ask counselors about what values and behavior is expected at camp.
• Keep in contact with camp staff, be informed and updated, and be open with your children and their counselors about the problems they may encounter at camp and how best to handle them.
It is recommended to take a step back and let your child’s camp counselors create an atmosphere of learning and respect. With the proper mentors at camp, your child will become nothing less than a good sport and a good friend, which will help them create a series of unforgettable summers.
Rachel Serwetz is a junior at Binghamton University and the Business Development Assistant at Rolling River Day Camp in East Rockaway, NY. She attended Camp DeBaun for 2 years and Camp Baco/Che-Na-Wah for 13 years, where she is now a head counselor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.