Dear Parents, Campers and Friends,
As the temperature hovers close to 60 today, I’m reminded of the last couple of winters we’ve had here at camp with lots of snow and cold temperatures. It’s been a mild winter so far this year with some daffodils blooming at the end of January! Even though Feb. is half over, we can always be surprised by a late winter storm or two. Good weather has provided lots of good days for camp preparations. We’re getting ready for camp like gangbusters and are so excited about the upcoming summer.
A big thank you goes out to one of our campers, Georgia from Atlanta, who sent us a wonderful version of our Gwynn Valley Mountains framed in tiny Hemlock cones spread around the edges of the picture she drew. We love receiving those kinds of gifts and it makes us yearn for the presence of all of our campers.
We have been traveling to promote camp as well as interviewing staff over the past many weeks since the new year started. We’ve also attended some very good workshops on a local and regional level pertaining to the camping industry. Just last week three of our staff attended a workshop by Bob Ditter, a child psychologist who is very well known in the camping industry for his work with “keeping children safe”. His work centers around the best hiring practices for staff, training counselors, camper and staff development, and strong supervision which is key in any setting for children. It was a full day of wisdom and practical information from Bob. I had dinner with him and a few other directors that evening because I serve on the NCYCA Board (North Carolina Youth Camp Association). It was a great day and reaffirmed that Gwynn Valley is doing an excellent job in our work with children and staff. Next week five of us will head to Atlanta to the American Camp Association’s National Conference to spend 4 days soaking up information from experts in the camping field and meeting camp directors from all over the country.
Last year about this time I wrote an article for a magazine and website called 60 Second Parent entitled “Is My Child Ready for Summer Camp”. As a sequel to that I want to add the following thoughts based on an article by Carolyn Meyer-Wartels, Psychotherapist and Parenting Counselor, “Five Convincing Reasons to Send Your Child To Summer Camp”. As many of us know, some children are born ready to attend camp and some parents plan that event from day one, maybe because of their own great camp experience or they feel that the opportunities for growth at summer camp should be part of the maturation process. Others, (children and parents) are less enthusiastic about camp and leaving the home nest for even a short period of time. We’re all quite different in our parenting styles and it’s good to remember not everything works for everybody.
Here’s what Carolyn writes in her article and I feel she is right on target in her justification for a summer camp experience.
1. Stepping outside of the comfort zone. We are the generation of padded playgrounds and soccer trophies for everyone on the team. Nowadays adults tend to rescue children from experiencing uncomfortable feelings. Yet a little discomfort, in a supportive environment, can give kids the tools to push themselves when something challenging emerges, leaving them with a true self-esteem boost. Being a little uncomfortable in new situations whether it is while being social or acquiring new physical skills can help build self-reliant kids.
2. Kids get to try on a different hat. Kids may be the “shy one” at school but the loud one at camp. They may be known as the best basketball player at school but at camp discover their creative selves. Camp breaks through the tendency to self label and gives kids a space to try new things. For kids to figure out who they “want to be when they grow up”, they need to wear different personas, explore different activities, and connect with various people from different walks of life.
3. It fosters independence. The first time children leave home for camp they may be worried about how they are going to make it. Yes, there is staff everywhere to help them if they get a splinter and remind them to wear sunscreen, but the truth of the matter is that they must learn to notice when they need help and clarifying what kind of help they need. Parents love to feel needed and monitor when their child is hungry or cold, but in order for children to grow into successful adults, they must learn how to be in touch with these needs. Camp gently fosters this experience for kids. This self-reliance is part of the journey of knowing yourself and learning to satisfy one’s needs.
4. The importance of different groups: Going to camp helps kids to fulfill the idea of having more than one group of friends. That’s right. Kids tend to be happier and more well rounded with the freedom of having three different groups of friends. The idea for this is if the going gets tough with one group, there is another group to turn to. Ask any middle-schooler, by the end of the school year, most are grateful to escape the enmeshed web of local friends for the fresh beginning of summer friends. It’s refreshing but more importantly, it is an important option for kids to retreat to.
5. It’s a stress free zone: There is no homework, travel soccer meets, citywide tests, dentist appointments, piano lessons or birthday parties. While these activities might all sound like fun and games, these commitments carry a lot of pressure. They are scheduled activities that have many rules with physical, mental and emotional demands. Camp gives kids a chance to clear their head from a very hectic year. It is true that some camps are very scheduled while others are a little looser, but the mere fact that camp is in new geographic location, a separate hideaway, with different rules and expectations then at home, can for many let some wind out of a too tight sail.
At Gwynn Valley we witness these points each and every summer. We see children grow in their own confidence, trying new things, making new friends and reaching for goals they might not have the opportunity to reach for at home or in a school environment. Camp is that getaway that every child needs at some point and we think Gwynn Valley is that nurturing place where a camper can live out those “simple joys of childhood”. We can’t wait to see you at Gwynn Valley this summer!