Attending Camp with Friends from Home
Are you on the fence about sending your child to camp with a friend from home? It’s a difficult decision; and one that can have repercussions during the school year, as well. To determine what’s right for your child, think carefully about goals for your camper’s summer experience. Are you looking for your child to escape the local crowd and embrace new friendships? Are you concerned that your child may feel uncomfortable without a familiar face? Attending a new sleepaway camp can be intimidating for even the most confident child. Campers are disconnecting from their family and leaving behind comfortable routines. It’s normal to feel insecure during the first few days. Speak to camp staff about connecting your child to another first-time camper. It also might be helpful to pair your camper up with a more experienced camper who can answer questions about camp and allay first-time jitters.
On the flip side, the thought of a built-in friend may seem comforting to your family. But how will the campers fare once the anxiety abates, and they are acclimated to camp? Might a pre-existing friendship prevent the campers from exploring new friendships and experiences?
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer when deciding to send your child to sleepaway camp with a friend,” says Jen Benalt, an MSW and Camper Care Coordinator at Surprise Lake Camp. Typically, she recommends that children come to camp alone and take this healthy risk in a safe and supportive environment. She says, “Campers get to reinvent themselves without the pressures of home, which includes their home friendships.”
However, a child may want the extra security of knowing another camper when taking the leap to spend weeks away from home. Benalt expresses that both situations are okay. Whether
attending camp alone or with a friend, children will experience social and emotional growth over the summer. A skilled staff member can subtly, but proactively, encourage friends from
home to explore individual interests and activities. Camp staff can help campers learn about relationship dynamics, which relate to larger situations later in life, such as going to college or
working with a friend. Summer camp helps kids to improve their social skills, build friendships, practice cooperation, and feel as though they belong.
If your camper decides to attend camp with a friend, think about issues that may arise and how the friends might navigate them. Sit down with the friends and all involved parents to discuss the following questions:
- Is this a recent or long-standing friendship?
- Are both campers feeling positive about the camp experience?
- Are both campers new to this camp or does one friend have a history there? How will that history play a role in the camp experience?
- What is the power dynamic of this friendship? Are both kids equal partners?
- Do friends have a good track record of successfully working out differences?
- Are campers confident enough to allow one another to forge new friendships?
- Have parents considered bunking the friends separately to give the relationship breathing room?
All friendships evolve. If you choose to send friends to overnight camp together, the hope is that the experience will enhance the existing relationship for kids who are already amicable in school or in their community. Trust your parental instincts, think ahead, and communicate with all parties involved, especially camp staff. Together, you can decide on the right choice to ensure a successful summer of friendship and fun.
First-Time Campers Are In Good Hands With Surprise Lake Camp
Surprise Lake Camp is a nonprofit organization that provides a home away from home for generations of young people. We believe in the value of community and friendship. Our Jewish values and identity shape our connection to nature. We’re dedicated to helping young people unplug, grow, and develop values, confidence, and skills to last a lifetime, adding to SLC’s storied history as the nation’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp.
When you make a charitable gift to Surprise Lake Camp, you give children life-changing experiences. Partner with us to provide campers confidence, growth, friendships, and Jewish identity. Donate today!