Summer camps help to prepare kids for later decisions in life
Published: August 31, 2015
By: Todd Kestin LCSW, Life Skills Mentor
Since Junior’s birth, you’ve been socking away savings from every paycheck to ensure he has money for college. After all, responsible parents make sure he has the education to prepare him for the workforce, to care for himself and his family.
When he leaves for college, your heart swells with pride, hope, and a little trepidation. Will he do well? Is he ready for all that freedom? Will he make the most of your investment?
Two semesters later, he comes home whipped, defeated, demoralized. While he had the grades to get into that Ivy League college, he didn’t have the life skills to succeed.
There’s more to preparing for adulthood than academic education. If kids spend their summers in camp, they’d be better prepared for later decisions such as whether to go to college, and how to make the best life for who they are.
Kids, especially teens, need mentors they trust separate from their parents. These role models provide guidance and help them prepare for their adult lives by helping them lay the foundation now.
I started camp as a 10-year-old, and didn’t stop till I was in my 20s. Though many may view this as parents getting rid of kids for the summer, my parents told me it was an investment to set me up to be a more independent, confident person. They were so right.
Camp taught me how to grow up. It taught me to take responsibility, and the importance of meaningful relationships in life. Before I started attending camp I had friends, but no significant relationships that I viewed as important. In fact, I had no idea what that even meant.
I didn’t need to be “cool” at camp. It was the first place I could truly be myself, and was accepted for who I was. In fact, I felt pretty cool for the first time. My self-esteem was boosted, my confidence increased, and I learned about investing myself in things that matter.
An interesting thing happens at camp when kids are taken out of their usual environment. The rules change. Everything changes. Authenticity is rewarded. Responsibility is cool. Maturity adds clout. If it weren’t for camp, I would never have been ready for college, which led to graduate school, and the mentoring career I enjoy now. It was a natural progression that began in camp.
As a camp counselor, I learned the importance of putting attention on others. The older I grew, the more I learned to be at camp for the campers, rather than for myself. As I grew as a camp counselor and worked with the kids, my personal development transformed as I spent time with them to give them a meaningful, significant experience that wouldn’t go away. It changed me, and it changed them. As my focus turned away from myself and I became focused on others, well, that was a huge piece of the growing up process.
Without this type of experience, kids often flounder through their teens and early twenties, unsure how to choose valuable friends, make life decisions and have the confidence to pursue their dreams.
For me, camp was a big group of mentors I looked up to, who gave me amazing advice, guided me on my journey, taught me lessons about growing up, showed me the importance of meaningful relationships, and, most important, how to find them.
Through my development in the camp experience, I learned how to leave camp and go back to school and find valuable friends. By the time I was in high school I had learned how to surround myself with people who would bring the most value to my life. I wasn’t born with this important skill, I learned it at camp.
Kids need to learn how to develop this skill at a young age. To choose the people they put around them who will help them in their own development, push them to be successful, take chances, and show them how to be a good friend.
Whether your child has the funds to go to college or not, his future growth and management of life depend on how he’s living today. Sometimes I think we as parents forget what’s important now. We’re so focused on what is necessary later, we don’t realize we need to set our kids up now to have the skills to live later.
So, saving funds for college is important, but saving for camp each year can really change a life. Let’s let our kids decide if college is important to them when the time comes. Let’s give them the tools necessary for them to make the decisions that will catapult them forward.
Give them the gift of camp.
If you wonder why I’m posting this at the end of summer rather than the beginning, here’s why. The new school year is beginning. You have nine months to save for next year’s camp. Make it happen for your child’s future success.
Used courtesy of Riverview Camp for Girls