Welcome to a new chapter in the life of your family! I say this because when a child goes off to camp for the first time, everyone in the family grows from the experience, not just your courageous camper!
You already know that camp presents a tremendous opportunity for your child to widen horizons, make new and lasting friends, and discover new strengths. After all, you wouldn’t be considering camp if you didn’t think it would add substantially to your child’s growth and development. And although camp can help your child learn a better backhand in tennis, acquire a stronger stroke in swimming, or improve a skill in just about any physical endeavor, the true payoff of camp will be apparent when your child comes home more self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-confident. What a gift to give to your child!
So even though you know about all the social and emotional benefits that a quality camp experience can bestow on your child, don’t be surprised if as a parent you have mixed feelings about this blessing. Most parents do! After all, nothing takes more trust than giving your child over to the care of other adults. Finding this trust, letting your child see that trust and letting your child go off on his or her own adventure with your blessing takes courage! It is also why I say you, as a parent, will grow from the experience of camp, too!
So take comfort in knowing your child is about to enter a safe place that will help him or her widen horizons, develop greater coping skills, and become more resilient—just as it will you!
Bob Ditter is a child, adolescent, and family therapist in Boston, Massachusetts. He consults with youth agencies throughout the United States, including The American Camp Association (ACA), The Girl Scouts of the USA, The YMCA, Salvation Army, JCC, and many others. He has visited over 500 camps in the United States, writes a column for Camping Magazine, the official publication of ACA, and has authored several books and training videos for camp professionals.