By the time my daughter was 11 months old, it was obvious she could walk on her own if she wanted to. But try as we might, my husband and I couldn’t get her to step away from the coffee table. One day we had a woman come to the apartment to buy our couch. She was a complete stranger, but my daughter warmed up to her quickly. As the woman left the apartment, she waved at my daughter, who was standing in her usual spot at the coffee table. To our amazement, our little one waved back and then took her first steps — to a complete stranger. The moral of the story is that sometimes a child’s personal growth requires some distance from mom and dad. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, though. Knowing when and how to let go is one of the biggest challenges parents face.
The overnight camp dilemma
With summer approaching, many parents are considering this question as they think about camp options for their kids. If your children are older, you might be thinking about sending them to overnight camp. In his book, psychologist and parenting expert Michael Thompson, Ph.D., makes a solid case for time away from parents. According to Thompson, “[parents] cannot accomplish what are essentially our children’s developmental tasks.” He advocates overnight camps as a healthy way to help kids grow in confidence and take steps toward independence and personal growth.
T Bar M Camp founder Dave Thiel shared a few of the many benefits kids receive from overnight camp:
Play and Exploration: “Camp gives kids the freedom to shed expectations, play and explore. Kids who play more and worry less are happier,” notes Thiel. After being in school all year, having some outdoor time for free play will give them a chance to explore beyond the classroom environment.
Time to Unplug: In our technology-driven culture, it’s easy for parents to lose track of how much time their kids spend on screens. “Camp is an opportunity for kids to look up from their gadgets and over-stimulating toys and pay attention to the world around them.”
Overcoming Homesickness: As a parent, my biggest worry about sending my kids to camp is that they’ll miss me too much and be upset the whole time. According to Thiel, “Homesickness is more than just longing for home; it is the fear of the unknown and uncertainty. While these feelings may be uncomfortable, they are part of life.” At camp, kids learn how to work through discomfort while surrounded by a friendly community.
Resilience: Camp presents kids with many opportunities to face adversity and overcome it. They learn to work with others outside of their immediate family circle and overcome physical and mental challenges with the support of trained counselors.