Quality camps breed resilient children
BY PAUL HAACK Special Columnist
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All parents wish the very best for their child: wishes such as happiness, success in school, fulfillment with their life and the ability to make and keep friends. Resilient children who can adapt to new situations reach each of these attributes.
Camps are the perfect place to help children learn to adjust to change, build their coping
strategies and optimize their development. Why are camps so ideal in building resilience? The camp experience provides children with simple and complex challenges such as conquering the climbing wall, trying a new sport, making and getting along with new friends, and learning to ask for help.
Each challenge encourages them to take manageable and safe risks away from their parents without their parents’ direction and encouragement. Campers are given the space to put away their electronic devices and get a little dirty while developing new relationships and having fun.
Camps also provide safe settings in which campers can start anew without any of the struggles they carry from school. Campers are able to be themselves and create strong relationships not only with their peers but also with their camp counselors. Having such a solid connection with trusted adults other than parents allows children to develop confidence and a powerful identity. This doesn’t develop by being good at everything; it develops by having a great camp counselor that will help them find something that they can be proud of doing well. It is also these very relationships and being part of a group bond and common purpose that cultivate a feeling of belonging and community.
A great camp program often gives children choices to help them feel in control of their camp experience. This fosters feelings of competence, and those allow campers to be better problem-solvers in new situations.
Camp programs also help children develop physically through exercise and enjoy fresh air while being outdoors. Excellent camp programs have a good balance of structured and unstructured activities and provide experiences in a variety of areas such as athletics, aquatics, arts and adventure.
We know that resilient children are hopeful, possess high self-worth, are aware of their weaknesses and recognize their strengths. We also know that resiliency helps with problem-solving skills and promotes the ability to make good decisions in all aspects of life. Through camp experiences, children are given the opportunity to build resilience and make the very best possible for their future.
Paul Haack is camp director of Banner Day Camp