If you are considering an overnight camp for your child this summer, you might want to know the facts before making a decision. To help guide you, I've compiled a list of myths — and accompanying facts — about overnight summer camps.
Myth: "If I send my daughter to camp with a friend, it will make her more comfortable."
Fact: What outwardly seems to provide a safety net has its pitfalls. A friend can sometimes act as a barrier to your child making new friends. All too often, one of the campers has a difficult time. The other child then feels responsible for the friend, which can be extremely burdensome. In addition, your child may choose his activities based upon his friends' interest, rather than his own.
Myth: "My friend is the best source for camp suggestions."
Fact: While your friend may speak to her own child's experience, camp advisors visit literally hundreds of camps each summer. Camp Advisory Services have years of experience addressing families' questions and concerns. Advisors ask families the questions necessary to make sure the "fit" is right between the program and the child and provide families with list of questions to ask directors.
Myth: "A 1-week session is the best way to ease into an ovenight camp experience."
Fact: Sometimes it is the parent who sets a child up for an overnight camping failure, by offering things like "I will pick you up if you are unhappy," or "let's just try this camp for one week to see how it goes." Kids need a chance to feel homesick and get through it with the help of counselors and individual coping mechanisms to feel successful about a camp experience. One week barely gives a child a chance to find their way around a camp, much less feel the tinge of missing Mom and Dad (of the family dog).
Myth: "Only I know what is best for my child."
Fact: It is tempting for us (especially if we are former campers) to re-create our own camp experience for our child. While the saying "Mother knows best" is true in most circumstances, input from your child may be the best approach when choosing a camp. Involving the child in the camp research may produce some unexpected results. Ask you child: do you want to build on your existing strengths and interests this summer or try something new? Be open to the unexpected!
Myth: "A specialty camp — rather than a traditional camp — is the best place for my child."
Fact: Specialty sports camps focus on teaching technical skills, not necessarily life skills. A child goes to this type of program to work on the skills for one sport (or for the art form, or for drama, etc.), rather than to be part of a community found in a traditional camp. Parents should not make the mistake of thinking a specialiy camp will necessarly provide the framework to care for a homesick child or to ease the child into feeling apart of a community.
Myth: "My son plays sports all year long, so I want to give him a break from the routine."
Fact: While it is a nice break for some kids to fish and hike at camp, others just want to play ball! I advise parents to look for a camp that can provide the sports that the child wants, plus some new challenges that the parents might want for their child. Summer sports are far different than sports during the school year. There is less of an emphasis on winning. A child who can't make the select baseball or soccer team at home may shine in a camp environment.
When the time comes for choosing a camp, there are a thousand questions to ask. But, it it important to ask the right questions and get the facts so that you can get the right fit for your child with lifetime rewards. Happy camping!
Helene Abrams is an advisor with Tips on Trips and Camps, a FREE summer camp and trip advisory service. She helps parents of children 7-18 find enriching summer overnight experiences. She is lucky enough to spend her summer days traveling to visit the wonderful camps and teen programs she recommends. Helene is also a teacher, wife and mother of two amazing children. She will be hosting a Summer Opportunities Camp Fair, Sat. Feb. 8 from 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Episcopal School of Dallas.